Sergei Bagapsh has been re-elected President of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia in a vote hailed by Moscow as confirmation of statehood.
The incumbent received 59.4 per cent of the vote on a 73.4 per cent turnout. His closest rival, a former KGB agent garnered 15.4 per cent.
Speaking on national television, Bagapsh reminded critics in the West there was no going back.
“Recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state is not an easy process,” he said. “Whether the European Union and the US, for whom we have immense respect, whether they like it or not, we have chosen our way in this life.”
Despite the appearance of a contested vote, the outcome was never really in doubt. The Kremlin recognised the rebel Republic’s independence last year after crushing an attempt by Tbilisi to retake South Ossetia, another pro-Russian region, by force.
Georgia has denounced the election as “illegitimate and amoral” while – apart from Russia – the only other two countries in the world to recognise the result are Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Even the man who came a distant second in the poll, Raul Khajimba, said he would contest the result as there had been in his view “irregularities at every polling station”.