South Ossetia, Georgia’s breakaway region, is holding a presidential election today after two terms served by incumbent leader Eduard Kokoity expired.
Eleven candidates are contending for the post, Russia’s state-run television channel Rossiya 24 reported.
Georgia, a Caucasus state on the Black Sea, has refused to recognize the vote, saying it’s not “representative of the will of its population.” The country lost a five-day war against neighboring Russia in August 2008 over South Ossetia, which Russia later recognized as an independent country along with another breakaway region, Abkhazia.
The conflict left Russian troops in control of swathes of Georgian territory. A 2009 independent inquiry into the origins of the war concluded that Russia’s allies had committed acts of ethnic cleansing against Georgian civilians.
“No process in the region of South Ossetia can ever be called an election and thus representative of the will of its population until the results of ethnic cleansing are reversed,” Georgian Reintegration Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said by mobile phone. “The facts are quite simple: South Ossetia is a region of Georgia currently occupied by Russia.”