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Ahead of Russian elections, quashed Ossetia vote embarrasses Moscow

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Dzhioyeva's supporters took to the streets the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on Wednesday and Thursday to protest, bringing a tough response from riot police who fired shots into the air and physically prevented protesters from approaching government buildings. The Kremlin dispatched a special emissary, Sergei Vinokurov, to the region in hopes of negotiating a solution.

"The people have spoken; 17,000 voters [out of 28,000 registered voters in the tiny republic] supported me," said Dzhioyeva, reached by telephone in Tskhinvali on Thursday. "Both the official Central Election Commission, and international election observers [including Russian ones] declared our elections to be basically free and fair. That gives us grounds to believe that we have won."

But Russia, which fought a war with Georgia in 2008 to preserve the independence of South Ossetia and another rebel republic, does not appear to see things that way.

Nor does outgoing president Eduard Kokoity, a deeply unpopular figure who unsuccessfully tried earlier this year to pressure the republic's legislature into amending the Constitution to grant him a third term of office, and then supported Mr. Bibilov as his anointed successor.

"The republic's leadership will make no concessions and will not yield to pressure," Mr. Kokoity, who rejects Dzhioyeva's victory, was quoted as saying by the official Russian RIA-Novosti agency Thursday. "I call on everyone to come to their senses and make serous conclusions."

Some Russian commentators have accused Dzhioyeva of fomenting a "colored revolution," such as the anti-Moscow revolts in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan over the past decade, a charge that she calls ridiculous.

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