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Russia backs Bibilov for de facto South Ossetia presidency

By Ernest Petrosyan
Friday, August 19
Moscow favors South Ossetia’s emergency situation minister Anatoly Bibilov for the position of the breakaway territory's president, reports Russian daily newspaper Kommersant on August 18.

The Kommersant, citing an unnamed source acquainted with the process of “selecting a candidate” for the presidential post of South Ossetian, reports that the process was led by an inter-agency group consisting of officials from the Russian President’s administration, Federal Security Service, Foreign Intelligence Service, Ministry of Defense, Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Regional Development (which is also in charge of reconstruction works in South Ossetia) and administration of the Russian government.

The Kommersant, according to the same source, also reports that Moscow is not satisfied with the current leader Eduard Kokoity, and does not wish to see Kokoity’s protege take over. Therefore, they are supporting an independent candidate. The main reason the Kremlin is disappointed with Kokoity is due to the misuse of the aid funds allocated by Moscow for the post-war reconstruction works in Tskhinvali, for which over 30 billion Russian rubles were given.

The parliament of the breakaway region approved November 13 as the date of presidential elections on Wednesday, which will also include the referendum on making Russian language together with Ossetian the official languages of the region.

“Taking into consideration that Kokoity, being in the authority from 2001, is finishing his second presidential tem, and he, according to the constitution of South Ossetia, will not be entitled to participate in the upcoming elections, therefore South Ossetia will have a new president”,. says the Director of the centre of political conjuncture Sergey Mikeev. “Obviously, only the Moscow supported candidate will succeed in the elections since South Ossetia exists thanks to Moscow”, he added.

Georgian analyst Soso Tsintsadze agreed that Moscow support almost guarantees victory for the presidential candidate. “Everybody realizes that South Ossetia is a de-facto Russian controlled region and not an independent state, as Medvedev and Putin assume, thus the free and democratic elections are not appropriate for the current state of internal affairs in South Ossetia”, stated he to the Messenger.

According to the Kommersant, Kokoity was willing to stay for a third term. However after Russia's Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin rejected in November 2009 any idea of changing the law to allow Kokoity to run for a third term, the latter started promoting among the Kremlin officials some of his closest allies as potential next leaders of the region; but the attempt failed, due to the dismissal of one of his closest allies among the Russian officials, deputy chief of the FSB Vyacheslav Ushakov, in February, 2011.

The Kommersant also reports that the future career of Eduard Kokoity “is not yet defined”. Citing an unnamed Russian official, the newspaper reported that Moscow will not “abandon” Kokoity and would offer him an official post in one of Russia’s regions, but not in the North Caucasus in order to keep him far from South Ossetia and not to allow him “to influence the new leadership” in the region.

Tskhinvali born Anatoly Bibilov, 41, graduated Russia’s Ryazan High Command Airborne School in 1992. In 1994-1996 he was commander of the breakaway region’s special task force at Defence Ministry . Before starting service in the Russian peacekeeping battalion in S.Ossetia in 1998, Bibilov lived and worked in Kiev for two years as a commercial director of unspecified enterprise, according to his official biography.

Before the 2008August, war Bibilov served as the deputy commander of North Ossetian peacekeeping battalion in the conflict zone and late, in November, he was appointed as the minister of emergency situations of the breakaway region.