The de facto leader of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region says a planned treaty with Moscow could call for the separatist province region to become part of Russia.
Leonid Tibilov said on December 10 that his government will probably sign a treaty strengthening ties with Russia early next year.
He said it would codify "a qualitatively new level of integration."
"The range of [possible levels of] integration can be pretty wide: from becoming a subject of the Russian Federation to an associated partnership," Tibilov said.
Russia recognized South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia, as independent nations after fighting a five-day war with Georgia in 2008, but very few nations have followed suit.
An agreement for South Ossetia to join Russia would be vehemently condemned by the United States and the European Union, which support Georgia's territorial integrity and have imposed sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March.
Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax