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South Ossetian Leader Wants To Join Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with the leader of Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, during their meeting in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi in May 2013.
The de facto president of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia says he does not exclude the accession of the separatist territory into the Russian Federation.

Leonid Tibilov said on June 2 that for South Ossetia "integration is a serious preparatory stage in resolving the issue of accession to Russia."

Tibilov added that when the "appropriate time" comes, "the divided South Ossetian people should be united" with North Ossetia, which is a subject of the Russian Federation.

On June 3, Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze told journalists in Tbilisi that the breakaway region's possibly joining Russia would be illegal.

The region has been enjoying de facto independence from Georgia since August 2008, when Russia recognized South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway territory, Abkhazia, as independent states after defeating Georgian troops in a short war.

Russia has stationed military forces in both separatist regions since then.

Georgia considers the breakaway regions to be its territories.
With reporting by and Interfax