Thursday May 26, 2022

Russia-Ukraine latest news: Breakaway Georgian region South Ossetia to hold referendum on joining Russia

South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov with Putin in 2019  - REUTERS

South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov with Putin in 2019 – REUTERS

The leader of the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia has announced that a referendum will be held in July on joining Russia.

Russia has exercised effective control over the region since fighting a brief war with Georgia in 2008. Russia and a handful of other countries recognise South Ossetia as an independent state, but most of the world still considers it to be part of Georgia.

“We did it!” South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov wrote on Telegram on Friday in announcing that he had signed a decree setting the referendum for July 17.

“In legalese, we fulfilled yet another important legal requirement,” he said. “And in normal language, we took a life-changing step – we are going home, we are going to Russia.”

About a month into Russia’s war with Ukraine, Mr Bibilov said South Ossetia would take the legal steps necessary to join Russia.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

12:15 AM

No one know when war will end, says Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday night that although Ukrainians are doing everything they can to drive out the Russians, “no one today can predict how long this war will last.”

“This will depend, unfortunately, not only on our people, who are already giving their maximum,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. “This will depend on our partners, on European countries, on the entire free world.”

He said he was thankful to all those who are working to strengthen the sanctions on Russia and increase military and financial support to Ukraine. “This is the only recipe for protecting freedom in the face of the Russian invasion. And for Western countries, this is not simply an expense. This is not about accounting, it’s about the future.”

Mr Zelensky said Ukraine on Friday shot down the 200th Russian aircraft of the war and he noted Russia’s heavy losses in tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and drones.

11:59 PM

Today’s top stories

  • The Turkish president spoke out on Friday night opposing Finland and Sweden’s attempts to join Nato, in a blow to their hopes for rapid accession to the military alliance

  • Brussels is considering shelving its plans for an embargo on Russia oil imports because of mounting opposition from Hungary

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Emmanuel Macron of offering Vladimir Putin concessions on Kyiv’s sovereignty to help the Russian save face

  • Washington on Friday made a request for an immediate ceasefire and open dialogue between the West and Moscow in a phone call between US secretary of defence Lloyd J Austin and Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, in the first call between the pair since Feb 18

  • New footage from inside the besieged steelworks in Mariupol shows utter devastation as Ukrainian fighters launch grenades to force back a Russian attack, in the first direct evidence that Moscow is trying to storm the plant

  • The UK has imposed sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s alleged girlfriend, as well as his ex-wife and several close friends who are believed to be holding lucrative assets on his behalf

  • Ukraine opened its first war crimes trial of the war on Friday, putting a Russian soldier in the dock for allegedly shooting an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the head as he rode his bicycle home

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