09MOSCOW1403, Russia following South Ossetia elections

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MOSCOW1403 2009-05-29 13:01 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5913
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1403/01 1491301
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291301Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3548
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001403 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O.  12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG RS
SUBJECT:  Russia following South Ossetia elections 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  The Russian press has been closely following the 
South Ossetian election campaign over the past several months. 
Reports cover the election mechanics and Russian assistance, which 
includes polling stations on Russian soil, election observers, and 
"methodological" aid.  Pressure by visiting South Ossetian 
opposition members led head of the Presidential Administration 
Sergey Naryshkin to oppose Kokoity's plan to lift constitutional 
presidential term limits in South Ossetia.  Analysts, however, 
question whether Moscow will rein in Kokoity, since he serves as an 
odious but useful tool in keeping Saakashvili on edge.  End summary. 
 
 
-------------------------- 
Russia following elections 
-------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) The May 31 elections in South Ossetia have been an object 
of close attention in Russia over the past several months.  Press 
coverage has been extensive, ranging from factual reporting on the 
mechanics of the election -- scheduled date, polling availability, 
and party participation -- to reports on Russian assistance, 
"President" Eduard Kokoity's shady attempts at securing victory and 
lifting presidential term limits, and analysis of Russia's goals. 
 
------------------ 
Russian assistance 
------------------ 
 
3.  (SBU) Russia has provided significant assistance to the election 
process in South Ossetia, including by designating one polling 
station in Moscow in the building identified for use by the South 
Ossetian "Embassy," as well as six stations in North Ossetia, where 
a large number of South Ossetians live.  The Moscow station was 
meant to serve the only 250 South Ossetians in town, plus students 
at local universities, according to South Ossetian "Ambassador" 
Dmitriy Medoyev. 
 
4.  (SBU) Russia has also agreed to send observers to the elections, 
according to Igor Borisov of the Russian Central Election 
Commission.  First Deputy Head of the Duma Committee for 
International Affairs Leonid Slutsky said the Russian observers 
would number "several dozen," and consist of representatives of the 
Federation Council, the State Duma, Russia's Central Election 
Commission, the Russian Foundation for Free Elections, the Russian 
Public Chamber, the Interregional Fund for Fair Elections, and the 
Moscow Bureau for Human Rights. 
 
5.  (SBU) Borisov expressed confidence that the elections would go 
smoothly, claiming that South Ossetian election officials had 
"immense experience."   Based on an April 6 MOU signed by the 
Russian and South Ossetian Central Election Commissions, Russia was 
providing "methodological" assistance, including on how to hold 
elections "in a destroyed territory."  Kommersant quoted a South 
Ossetian official saying the elections would follow the "Russian 
model" of the December 2, 2007 State Duma elections (sic).  Borisov 
noted the Russian election commission was not providing financial or 
material support to South Ossetian election organizers. 
 
-------------------------- 
Opposition comes to Moscow 
-------------------------- 
 
6.  (SBU) Reporting on the elections in the Russian press 
intensified after members of the opposition came to Moscow in May. 
As the Moscow Times put it, opposition figures told "seemingly 
anyone in the Russian government who would listen" that Kokoity's 
shady dealings in his drive to reelection and lifting term limits on 
the presidency had discredited the Russian authorities, who had 
found themselves "forced to support him despite obvious misgivings." 
 In addition to calling for a boycott of the elections during 
meetings in Moscow, the opposition organized a protest by about 200 
South Ossetians near the State Duma on May 21, and plans a picket 
line in Moscow on election day. 
 
7.  (SBU) The pressure from the opposition figures apparently had 
some success.  Sergey Naryshkin, the head of the Russian 
Presidential Administration, suggested on Vesti 24 TV that South 
Ossetia should preserve the current constitutional presidential term 
limits. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
Analysts divided over Moscow's policy toward Kokoity 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
8.  (SBU) Analysts were divided over Moscow's policy toward 
Kokoity's reelection aspirations.  Ivan Yartsev on politcom.ru 
suggested that Kokoity would simply ignore the Kremlin's "polite 
hint" to maintain presidential term limits, while Ekho Moskviy's 
Yulia Latynina went even farther.  Despite Naryushkin's comments on 
keeping term limits, she thought Moscow valued Kokoity as a "most 
 
MOSCOW 00001403  002 OF 002 
 
 
fundamental thorn in Saakashvili's backside," which caused Moscow to 
"put up with whatever Kokoity did." 
 
9.  (SBU) However, others argued that the elections held wider 
implications for Russia's pol
icy in the region.  Ivan Sukhov of 
Vremya Novostei said Russia, as South Ossetia's "sole supporter, 
sponsor, and patron of its independence," had a "vital interest" in 
ensuring that the parliamentary elections were "honest and 
transparent."  If not, it would be easy to blame Moscow for allowing 
a "cynical imitation" of democracy in South Ossetia to destroy the 
chances for broader recognition of South Ossetia. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10.  (SBU) As there is little reason to assume the elections in the 
corruption-ridden region of South Ossetia will be fair and 
transparent, Russia faces the prospect of continuing to work with 
Kokoity for the foreseeable future.  While many of our MFA 
colleagues clearly find him odious, Kokoity enjoys continued support 
among other services and may seek to fashion himself on the model of 
Chechnya's Kadyrov: corrupt, autocratic, but indispensible to 
broader GOR policy goals. 
 
BEYRLE

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