In a decree, “President” Alan Gagloev invoked “the uncertainty linked to the legal consequences” of such a consultation, which had been decided by his predecessor, Anatoly Bibilov, and which was to be held on July 17.

He also highlighted “the inadmissibility of a unilateral decision by referendum on issues relating to the legitimate rights and interests of the Russian Federation”.

Mr. Gagloev nevertheless called for “holding, without delay, consultations with the Russian side on all issues related to greater integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation”.

On May 13, the authorities of South Ossetia announced the signing by Mr. Bibilov of a decree on the holding of a referendum, evoking the “historic aspiration” of the inhabitants of this small Caucasian territory to join Russia, which it borders.

“We are going home,” commented Mr. Bibilov, adding that “the time has come to unite once and for all”. “South Ossetia and Russia will be together. This is the start of a great new story,” he said.

But Mr Bibilov failed to win re-election as “president” earlier this month. Russia had expressed the hope that his successor to this post, Alan Gagloyev, would be able to ensure “continuity” in relations with Moscow.

– At the center of the 2008 conflict –

South Ossetia was at the center of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, following which the Kremlin recognized its independence as well as that of another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, and set up bases there military.

The announcement of “president” Gagloev comes on the 96th day of the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine, where the leaders of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, whose independence has also been recognized by Moscow, have also expressed their interest in integrating with Russia.

Georgia, where the Russian offensive against Ukraine has sparked a surge of solidarity, considers the possibility of South Ossetia joining Russia to be unacceptable.

In August 2008, Russia attacked Georgia whose government was fighting pro-Russian militias in that region after they bombed Georgian villages.

The fighting ended after five days with the establishment of a ceasefire brokered by the European Union. But they had claimed more than 700 lives and displaced tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians.

In March, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Karim Khan, called for arrest warrants to be issued against three current and former South Ossetian officials, in connection with war crimes. committed against ethnic Georgians.

Among the crimes they are accused of are torture, illegal detention, hostage taking and deportation of people.

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russia was responsible for post-war human rights abuses.