The people of the former Georgian republic of South Ossetia would vote to join Russia, North Ossetia leader Taimuraz Mamsurov was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
"I have no doubt about the outcome of a referendum on the issue of South Ossetia's accession to Russia, if it was held. The people of South Ossetia would answer the question in the affirmative," Mamsurov said, according to his press secretary.
Mamsurov stressed that South Ossetia is an independent state and only its people could decide on its future.
Asked whether South Ossetia could become part of Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that was up to the Ossetian people to decide.
These remarks come shortly after the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution urging Russia to respect Georgia's territorial integrity and "remove its occupying forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia."
Russia recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian republic, Abkhazia, as independent states two weeks after an armed conflict with Georgia in August 2008. Georgia considers the two regions part of its sovereign territory.