Since the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, Russia has increasingly expanded its control over this breakaway region. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity has replaced most of his cabinet with officials from Russia, and Russian forces have barred ethnic Ossetians from entering Georgia. South Ossetians now face the challenges of dealing with a Russian-funded, highly corrupt elite. In the run up to the November 2011 presidential election, officials loyal to the outgoing president jailed and threatened opposition figures and changed legislation to prevent certain candidates from registering. In a surprise move, the South Ossetian Supreme Court demonstrated some independence by annulling the vote -- which would have declared Moscow-backed candidate Anatoly Bibilov the winner -- citing electoral violations. The court called for a repeat election in March 2012, but the move sparked protests, with officials from both the territory and Moscow suggesting that Russia simply annex the breakaway region. Bibilov withdrew his candidacy for the March 2012 election, and former South Ossetia KGB head Leonid Tibilov was elected president after winning a runoff election against former human rights commissioner David Sanakoyev.
Above, the national flag streams over Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, on April 8, 2012.