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After war, Russia's influence expands

The war with Georgia has many calling for North and South Ossetia to unite.

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Rich Clabaugh–STAFF

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Boris Samoyev, a driver from war-torn South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, pulls his car over to allow a convoy of Russian military trucks to roll past. The trucks are heading south into the Roki Tunnel, which connects the republics of North and South Ossetia.

"The Russians have helped us so much. They came when the Georgians were beating our door down, and drove them back," Mr. Samoyev says. "We Ossetians have always been loyal to Russia, and they have proven that we made the right choice."

Though Moscow threw relations with the West into crisis by striking with massive force when Georgia attempted to seize breakaway South Ossetia in August, the impact in Russia's turbulent, multiethnic northern Caucasus appears to be in the Kremlin's favor – at least for now.

Many experts in North Ossetia, the most important of the seven ethnic republics in this troubled region because of its historic and current loyalty to Moscow, say Russia would have risked disaffection if it hadn't acted to protect South Ossetia.

Some add that the Kremlin should now allow North and South Ossetia to unite, creating a pro-Moscow Ossetian republic that straddles the Caucasus Mountains, to enhance stability in the whole region.

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