Five heavily armed men in uniforms pace up and down the narrow corridor outside the cardiology ward at the hospital in Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia, which declared its independence from Georgia after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Their mission it to prevent reporters and political and human rights activists from visiting Alla Dzhioyeva, the 62-year-old woman who insists she was elected president last November. Dzhioyeva has been receiving treatment since South Ossetian riot police raided her election headquarters Feb. 9, and roughed her up. She was assaulted and knocked unconscious, she said, on the eve of what was supposed to be her inauguration. But the presidential election was not recognized by the South Ossetian authorities. The Supreme Court invalidated the results of the November poll and scheduled a new vote for March 25. Dzhioyeva is not participating in the new election. In a phone interview, she said she has become “a hostage” of the political machination enveloping the region.
“The militants tore my body apart, threw me on the floor. I felt their guns sticking into my body the moment before I lost consciousness,” Dzioyeva said. “They acted as if they were my executors.” The newly appointed deputy head of the republic’s administration, Vitaly Denisov, sighs in frustration: “I agree, she is a victim.”
Last November, Dzhioyeva, the former minister of education, received an official piece of paper issued by the election commission that recorded her election victory–by 16 percent. For a few days, the republic, or at least Dzhioyeva’s supporters, celebrated their victory.