Russian President Vladimir Putin meets leader of breakaway South Ossetia in Moscow, March 21, 2017. Photo: Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov in Moscow on March 21 to discuss the upcoming presidential polls and “the issues of security, defense capacity building” in the breakaway region, the Kremlin reported.
“Russia and South Ossetia have built truly allied relations,” Putin told Tibilov before the meeting. “We are building our relations on the basis of our basic Treaty [the treaty on “the Alliance and Integration”], we have also signed the agreements in various areas and on the whole, all of them are being implemented.”
“Of course, in a large-scale effort as such, there are issues that require special attention from our side,” Putin noted, but added the Russian side is “generally pleased” that the situation in South Ossetia is stabilizing. “In fact, we can say that it has already stabilized,” he said, echoing the electoral slogan of Leonid Tibilov, who is campaigning in the South Ossetian presidential polls on ‘stability’ ticket.
“By the way, I wish you good luck,” Putin went on. “I hope the voting will proceed in accordance with the constitution, in strict compliance with the laws of South Ossetia, and will ultimately lead to a new, favorable environment for [further] development.”
Tibilov thanked the Russian President for the country’s “the full-scale assistance” to South Ossetia, which, in the words of the South Ossetian leader, has changed the region “for better” from the “appalling state of affairs” five years ago, when he entered office.
“Hundreds of square meters of new buildings, new roads and social facilities [were built] in our republic. These are all tangible results. Of course, we owe all of that to great Russia.” Leonid Tibilov told Putin.
“Mr. President, I would like to express my gratitude to you personally for the trust that has been expressed [towards me] over the years,” Tibilov added. “And today, I can confidently say that all the assistance that went to South Ossetia always found its target. This, I believe, is very important, and I always considered this to be the priority in my work.”
Putin met with leader of Georgia’s breakaway region a week after endorsing a new defense agreement with South Ossetia, formalizing the merger of the region’s military units into the Russian armed forces.
The meeting also comes amid the growing controversy over the decision of the local election administration to turn down former South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity’s bid for the region’s presidential polls, prompting series of protest rallies in Tskhinvali, the region’s capital.
Simultaneously with presidential polls, scheduled for April 9, Tskhinvali will also hold a referendum on renaming the region to “the South Ossetia – the State of Alania.”