Kokoity Confirms Intentions to Integrate with Russia

MOSCOW (Interfax)–At a ceremony marking the dispatch of humanitarian aid from Moscow to the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on Wednesday–president of the breakaway republic Eduard Kokoity–stressed the need for unity between north and south Ossetia.

"It’s time to forget the words ‘southern’ and ‘northern.’ There is one Ossetia–which will be part of Russia," Kokoity said–adding that nearly 98% of residents of South Ossetia are Russian citizens.

"We are aware of our responsibility before our compatriots in Russia–since geographically it is in a place where the future of the Caucasus is being decided," he said.

A united Ossetian people would "do everything possible to rebuff the forces that are trying to oust Russia from the Caucasus," he said.

"We shall work on several economic projects to integrate South Ossetia with Russia," he said.

South Ossetia is legally a province of Georgia–but a conflict in the 1990s led to its de-facto independence. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has stepped up efforts to restore control over South Ossetia. North Ossetia is a constituent territory of the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile–South Ossetian Interior Minister Robert Guliyev told Interfax by phone on Thursday that Georgia has set up two army groups on the border with South Ossetia as part of its plans to launch strikes at the republic from the direction of Znauri and Tskhinvali.

"By concentrating their forces in two directions–Tskhinvali and Znauri–the Georgian authorities are entrusting the task of surrounding Tskhinvali and closing the Trans-Caucasus highway to traffic traveling to [Russia’s republic of] North Ossetia to these army groups. This will become possible as a result of two parallel strikes," Guliyev said.

"An intelligence report suggests that up to ten T-72 tanks–some of which Tbilisi purchased in Romania and some other tanks that were repaired in Ukraine–have been deployed in Georgia’s Kareli district alone. These tanks are expected to take part in an invasion of South Ossetia’s Znauri district," he said.

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