RUSSIA MONITOR

Date: 15 March 2017

The Creeping Annexation

In recent weeks, Moscow has made a number of decisions regarding the small quasi-states on post-Soviet territory that are dependent on them, but unrecognized by the international community. All have one common denominator: they are strengthening their relationship with Russia. Whether economically (the “people’s republics” in the Donbass) or security-wise (South Ossetia). The Kremlin is thus reinforcing its position in the regions critical to its security while avoiding irreversible obligations that could be exploited by the West to strengthen sanctions (the economy) and the eastern flank of NATO (security).

© EPA/MAXIM SHIPENKOV PAP/EPA

On March 14, Vladimir Putin made the decision to incorporate the armed forces of separatist South Ossetia into the command structure of the Russian army. Russia has maintained de facto control of this region of Georgia for many years, which had in the early 1990s declared allegiance to the authorities in Tbilisi. So far, however, Moscow has claimed that South Ossetia is a sovereign, independent state. Absorbing the armed forces of this “republic” can be interpreted as a step towards the annexation of South Ossetia. All the more so with presidential elections scheduled for April 9, along with a plebiscite regarding a name change to the “state”. It would be called South Ossetia – the State of Alania. Already, the region neighboring the Russian Federation, inhabited mainly by Ossetians, is named the Republic of North Ossetia – Alania. The similarity of the names may suggest a future unification of the regions.

Other moves binding the separatist regions even more closely with Russia are: “parliamentary” elections in Abkhazia (March 12), Moscow’s recognition of identity documents of the “people’s republics” in the occupied part of the Donbass (February 18), the recognition of the Russian ruble by the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” as the official means of payment (March 1), the opening of an “agency” in Moscow by Wadim Krasnosielski, the recently elected “president” of Transnistria, headed by Alexander Caraman, until recently a highly-positioned delegate in the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

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