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Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Vote in Russian Presidential Polls

Residents of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia holding Russian citizenship, as well as the Russian troops stationed in the two regions, cast their ballots in Russia’s presidential election yesterday.

Twenty polling stations were opened in Abkhazia (up from the initially planned sixteen), including four in the town of Sokhumi. Thirteen polling stations were opened in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia (up from the initially planned nine), seven of them in the town of Tskhinvali.

As of 16:00 yesterday, around 30,000 Russian citizens had made their choice in Abkhazia. The figure for Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia was reported to be around 14,000, as of 18:00.

The Moscow-backed leaders of both regions, Raul Khajimba and Anatoly Bibilov, voted in the polls, with both emphasizing their preference for “a strong President,” echoing the electoral slogan of Vladimir Putin.

“I think, there has to be a strong leader in Russia, and I hope this will be the case; Russia has to be strong not only in terms of the military, but also in terms of the economy and other areas,” Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba stressed outside a polling station yesterday.

“As I have repeatedly stressed, the fate of South Ossetia is directly linked to the fate of the Russian Federation, and each of us wants to have a strong President in Russia,” Tskhinvali leader Anatoly Bibilov told the local officials and heads of administrations two days before the polls.

The exact number of eligible voters for both regions is unknown. In Russia’s 2012 presidential polls, there were 89,000 voters in Abkhazia, according to the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation. The corresponding number for Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia stood at 36,500.

Tbilisi’s Reaction

In its statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia condemned the presidential polls in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region as “a clear demonstration of the ongoing occupation” of the two regions, and “a yet another step towards their factual annexation by the Russian Federation.”

The Foreign Ministry highlighted that Moscow held the parliamentary and the presidential elections in the two regions “in the circumstances, when the remaining populations in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions have been subject of illegal and forceful mass passportization implemented by Moscow since 2000s, and hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees expelled from those regions as a result of ethnic cleansing are still deprived of the right to return to their homes.”

“With such actions the Russian Federation fully disregards the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, and blatantly violates the fundamental norms and principles of international law, such as sovereignty and territorial integrity, inviolability of internationally recognized borders and non-interference in the internal affairs of another state,” the statement also reads.

The Ministry then appealed to the international community “to give a due assessment to the illegal actions of the Russian Federation in the occupied regions of Georgia that undermine the international law and rules-based international order.”

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