President of South Ossetia suspends an earlier announced referendum on whether to become part of Russia until consultations with Moscow are complete.
The leader of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia has scrapped plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia which his predecessor had scheduled for July 17.
In a decree issued on Monday, the Moscow-controlled enclave's president Alan Gagloev invoked "uncertainty of the legal consequences of the issue submitted to a referendum".
The decree also stressed "the inadmissibility of a unilateral decision of a referendum on issues affecting the legitimate rights and interests of the Russian Federation".
Gagloev ordered "to hold, without delay, consultations with the Russian side on the entire range of issues related to the further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation".
On May 13, Gagloev's predecessor, Anatoly Bibilov, signed a decree on holding the referendum, citing the region's "historic aspiration" to join Russia, his office said at the time.
READ MORE: Georgia: South Ossetia's bid to join Russia in referendum 'unacceptable'
South Ossetia was at the centre of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 after which the Kremlin recognised the territory –– along with another separatist region, Abkhazia –– as an independent state and stationed military bases there.
Bibilov lost his bid for re-election earlier this month. Russia has expressed hope that Gagloev will preserve "continuity" in ties with Moscow.
Monday's announcement came on the 96th day of Russia's assault of Ukraine, where Moscow-controlled separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk regions have also expressed interest in joining Russia.
The full-scale aggression on Ukraine has sparked an outpouring of solidarity in Georgia.
Tbilisi has previously denounced as "unacceptable" plans by South Ossetia to hold a referendum on joining Russia.
In August 2008, Russian forces launched an all-out invasion of Georgia, which was battling pro-Russian militia in South Ossetia, after they shelled Georgian villages.
The fighting ended five days later with a European Union-mediated ceasefire but claimed more than 700 lives and displaced tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians.
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