A candidate who claimed victory in the presidential election in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia has been hospitalized in grave condition after a police raid on her headquarters, officials said Friday.
Former Education Minister Alla Dzhioyeva, suffered a surge in blood pressure, the local government and her staff both said, after riot police raided her headquarters in the provincial capital, Tskhinvali, and attempted to take her out for questioning.
Dzhioyeva, 62, had rejected a court ruling annulling her apparent victory in the presidential vote in November and set her inauguration for Friday.
The raid was an apparent attempt to thwart that. Acting president Vadim Brovtsev said in a statement Friday that it was intended to "prevent a coup attempt." Police denied some media reports that Dzhioyeva had suffered a stroke after a police officer had struck her over the head with a rifle butt.
Dzhioyeva and her Kremlin-backed rival in November's election, Anatoly Bibilov, both advocated close ties with Russia, which recognized South Ossetia as an independent state after the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war and still has troops in the region.
Bibilov was the choice of the outgoing provincial leader, Eduard Kokoity, whom critics have accused of embezzling Russian aid. Dzhioyeva pledged to make the distribution of Russian aid transparent and rebuild houses and infrastructure destroyed by years of neglect and fighting.
The local court's decision to annul Dzhioyeva's victory in November triggered a protest in which thousands of her supporters camped in the street for days. She has rejected the authorities' move to set a repeat election in March.
South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in a war in the early 1990s. Spiraling tensions between pro-Russian separatists and the Western-learning Georgian government triggered the brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. Only a handful of other nations around the world have followed Moscow in recognizing South Ossetia's independence, while a Georgian economic blockade and misappropriation of lavish Russian funds triggered inflation and left many unemployed.
Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.