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Protesters Keep Rallying in Tskhinvali, as Talks with Kremlin Official Continue
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 4 Dec.'11 / 02:31

Protesters in Tskhinvali center are keeping a third all-night vigil, warming themselves up by a bonfire as talks between supporters of Alla Jioyeva, whose victory in the November 27 presidential runoff was annulled, continued talks on Saturday with a Kremlin official, who was sent by Moscow to try resolve a post-election crisis in the breakaway region.

On Saturday afternoon, before talks started, Jioyeva's one of the key allies, Anatoly Barankevich, told protesters outside the government building, that there were four issues on which they intended to focus during the negotiations. The key demand, he said, was recognition of the November 27 runoff results as valid. In other three demands he listed resignation of an incumbent South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity and other senior officials, including chairman of the Supreme Court and chief prosecutor; release of political prisoners and setting a date for Jioyeva’s inauguration as the new leader.

Before meeting with the Kremlin official, Sergey Vinokurov, who is in Tskhinvali since November 30, Barankevich also called on protesters to turn out at the polling stations on Sunday to participate in the election to the State Duma, lower house of Russia's Parliament. Majority of residents in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia hold Russian passports and Moscow made them eligible to vote in Russia's elections.

There were reports on December 2, that Jioyeva's supporters were reluctant to participate in the Duma's elections.

Barankevich, however, said on December 3 that participation in the Russian elections would "show that we stand beside Russia." He even called on the protesters to vote for the ruling United Russia party.

He also called on the protesters to turn out at the rally on Sunday in large numbers, saying that success would largely depend on how "active" Jioyeva's supporters remain in defending their rights.

It was the first time on Saturday that Barankevich took part in talks with the Kremlin official. Alla Jioyeva reportedly fell ill to bronchitis and was not able to participate in the talks or to turn out at the protest rally on Saturday.

After the talks, Barankevich described the meeting as "more successful" then the previous rounds of consultations, reports say. He did not specify details, but said that talks would continue late on Sunday afternoon. He also said that court hearing into Jioyeva's appeal requesting to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling annulling the November 27 runoff results was scheduled for Monday.  

Barankevich is not a native of South Ossetia; a retired Russian army colonel and veteran of Soviet war in Afghanistan, as well as of war in Chechnya, Barankevich was sent to the breakaway region in 2004 to take the post of the defense minister. During the August, 2008 war Barankevich served as secretary of the breakaway region's national security council and was personally involved in combat operations in Tskhinvali. He was at odds with Kokoity and shortly after the war he left the region, slamming the South Ossetian leader for corruption. After leaving Tskhinvali, he, reportedly, became close to Russian free-style-wrestling team trainer, Jambolat Tedeev, a fierce opponent of Kokoity. Tedeev himself wanted to run for the region's leadership but was barred from the election on the grounds of not meeting residency requirement. After that both Tedeev and Barankevich threw their support behind Alla Jioyeva.

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