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When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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In Georgia, Fears Of Being Back On Putin's Hit List

Putin has not forgotten about the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which wants to decide in July whether to join Russia. People here still remember when the Russian army invaded while the West looked on. And there is growing worry that this could soon happen again.

ERGNETI — Every time Russian troops exercise in South Ossetia, people in this Georgian border village hear the artillery. The aftershock reverberations are already causing the stones in Lia Khlachidze’s house to crumble off the wall. She lives in Ergneti, only about 100 meters as the crow flies from the demarcation line.

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The 69-year-old is standing in her cellar, leafing through a book until she finds a particular page. On it is the footprint of a Russian soldier. “In 2008, Russia invaded here and burned and devastated everything,” Lia says. “They didn’t want us to come back.”

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Greater Russia? Four Scenarios For Putin’s Expansionist Ambitions

A mind map of the Russian leader’s possible plans to increase his influence, and expand his territory.

Vladimir Putin has always had his eye on the neighborhood.

In Georgia, the border with Russia has effectively been controlled by Moscow’s FSB security services since 2008. Washington this week accused Russian agents of recruiting pro-Kremlin Ukrainian operatives to take over the government in Kyiv and cooperate with a Russian occupying force. Meanwhile, all of Belarus has been on a short leash for two decades.

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Erdogan's Purge Moves Next Door To Georgia <div></div>

TBILISI — The Georgian capital is built upon a hill, sandwiched in the midst of towering peaks. The same can be said about this country, wedged between powerful regional neighbors. As Georgia's economy and aspirations rise, Tbilisi's growing middle class is flocking to private schools to educate its children. There's just one problem: some of them belong to the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic, lies strategically between the Caucasus and the Black Sea. Its leaders have long dreamed of joining the European Union and NATO, but its ambitions are checked by two prominent neighbors: Russia (which invaded in 2008) to the north, and to the south, its largest trading partner, Turkey.

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Extra! Zoo Animals Escape After Georgian Floods

At least 24 people are still missing after severe flooding in Georgia's capital Tbilisi that left at least 12 people dead.

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Eurovision Contestants 2015: Georgia

Nina Sublatti, Georgia’s entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, wrote the song she will perform, “Warrior”, in just three hours in the middle of the night. This seems incredible when you know the lyrics are made up of such beautiful prose as “I'm a warrior/Isolated/World gonna listen to me/Violence/Set the free/Wings are gonna spread up/I'm a warrior.”

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Georgia

Farewells, July 2014: Gordimer, Angulo, Winter

The world bid farewell to a Nobel author, several international actors, a guitar hero and the last foreign minister of the Soviet Union.

Georgia
Aleksei Tokarev

Post-Soviet Democracy: What Happens After Elections Matters Even More

Georgia's outgoing President Mikhail Saakashvili has been a darling in the West. Now that his opponents are in power, his fate will tell us much about the nation's young democracy.

MOSCOW – Compared to the totalitarian governments in the East and the European democracies in the West, post-Soviet countries are like a young girl trying to decide between a modest traditional dress that will hide her flaws and a fashionable skirt that will require hours at the gym.

Even among themselves, the post-Soviet nations run the gamut along the continuum between bona fide democracy and absolutist authoritarianism. The recent election of Giorgi Margvelashvili from the Georgian Dream party, the party founded by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili in opposition to outgoing president Mikhail Saakashvili, was not particularly notable in itself. The bigger test for Georgian democracy is what happens now, after the election; and in particular, what happens to Saakashvili.

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Georgia
Alan Posener

Sixty Years After His Death, Stalin Still A National Hero To Some In Georgia

A visit to the dictator's birthplace in the former Soviet republic of Georgia where a complicated relationship with the notorious native son plays into current tensions with Russia.

GORI - Sixty years ago, on March 5, 1953, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died. But in the city of his birth, Gori in Georgia, time seems to have stood still.

“They” (the unpopular regime of Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili) may have taken the sleepy provincial city’s big, grey statue of Stalin down, but there’s still the grand boulevard known as Stalin Prospect where a small marble Egyptian-style temple has been built to enclose the modest house where Stalin was born. Behind the temple is a Venetian-style palace with a tower that houses the Stalin Museum.

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Georgia

Opposition Sweeps In Georgia After Prison Torture Scandal

KOMMERSANT (Russia) RADIO SVOBODA(Russia)

TBILISI - Celebrations continued into Tuesday morning in the capital as the opposition coalition “Georgian Dream” led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, scored a surprise victory in Georgian parliamentary elections.

Pro-government forces conceded defeat, saying the opposition obtained 51% of the vote. According to the opposition television channel, the results were a landslide - 63% for Georgian Dream, Kommersant reports.

Opposition leaders had levied complaints earlier in the day of unfair voting practice, saying there were some places where fair-election observers were not allowed and polls where people voted with false passports, Kommersant reports.

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Georgia
Anna Kasatkina, Pavel Taracenko, Georgiy Dvali

Abkhazian Leader Dodges Yet Another Barrage Of Bullets

Russian military helicopters are searching the mountains of Abkhazia, a break-away republic of Georgia, for suspects in a Wednesday ambush on Abkhazian President Alexander Ankvab. The leader survived the attack. Two of his bodyguards did not. Could Moscow

TBILISI -- The car of Abkhazian President Alexander Ankvab was ambushed by unknown assailants Wednesday morning as he was driving towards Sukhumi, the regional capital of Abkhazia, a break-away republic of Georgia. President Ankvab was not injured, but two of his bodyguards died from wounds and two more were seriously wounded. In addition to the machine-gun fire on the president's car, there were also several land-mines detonated.

Abkhazia considers itself an independent state and is recognized as such by Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The rest of the international community considers it part of Georgia, even though it has operated with de-facto independence since the Georgia-Abkhazia war in the early 1990s. Russia continues to have a strong military presence, ostensibly for peacekeeping, in the break-away republic, which still engages in periodic violence with Georgia.

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Georgia

Disputed Election In South Ossetia Reignites Tensions After 2008 Russia-Georgia War

After the Kremlin-backed candidate appears to lose at polls, the Supreme Court overturns the results. But Alla Dzhioyeva, who took 56% of the vote, won’t go down without a fight.

*NEWSBITES

Tskhinvali -- Three years after a brief but intense war between Russia and Georgia over the contested territory South Ossetia, tensions are rising in the small Russian-backed Caucasian Republic after last Sunday's election results were annulled by the Supreme Court.

The opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva appeared to have won, garnering 56% of the vote compared to the 40% by her opponent, Kremlin-sponsored Anatoly Bibilov. But the Supreme Court annulled the election results Tuesday, citing voting irregularities, and parliament set a new election for March 2012, barring Dzhioyeva from participating.

But Dzhioyeva, 62, is not going to go without a fight. Early Wednesday morning, she announced that she would would assume the presidency and begin forming a new cabinet in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. "We have always acted within the framework of the constitution and have never strayed from legal grounds," Dzhioyeva announced in an interview with Kommersant. "I am going to form a cabinet of 10 people to govern the Republic of South Ossetia."

The main responsibility of the cabinet is to control the executive branch of the government until Dzhioyeva's inauguration. She also declared that she would follow the will of the South Ossetian voters, and said that she holds current South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity, also a Kremlin darling, responsible for the current tension.

The security forces in the small republic -- which is recognized as an independent state by Russia but considered part of Georgia by most of the international community -- have been on full alert since Tuesday's Supreme Court announcement. The breakaway republic provoked a month-long war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, during which time most of the Georgians in the region, previously some 30 percent of the population, fled.

Since then, Kokoity has made conflicting remarks about South Ossetia's plans for the future, sometimes saying the region would become an independent state, other times that it would become part of Russia. Georgia still insists that either option violates its territorial integrity.

"Written in black and white"

When asked why she decided to fight the election annulment, Dzhioyeva was not short on answers. "If there had been any kind of infractions at the polls, then it should have been announced on election day," she said. "I have in my hand 85 statements from the poll captains, and the election results are written clearly in black and white. These documents were signed by representatives of the electoral commission as well as observers from my opponent's campaign and from my campaign."

Dzhioyeva said that both international experts and the internal electoral commission have said that there was nothing to indicate irregularities in the elections. She added that she doubted all along that Kokoity would leave power "in a civilized manner."

In spite of the Kremlin's known support for her opponent, she plans to appeal to the Russian government, which supplies a large amount of aid to the area, to pressure Kokoity to respect the election results. If that fails, Dzhioyeva says she would reach out to the larger international community.

Although her opponent, Anatoly Bibilov, has made comments suggesting he might resort to force if he didn't prevail at the polls, Dzhioyeva says she's not worried about a military confrontation. The Kremlin may have supported her opponent, but she thinks that Russia's interests would not be served by renewed violence in South Ossetia.

Read the interview with Alla Dzhioyeva in Russian

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