By Giorgi Lomsadze
So much for the Russian Spring: “skewed” campaigning , an alleged drop of Botox  and a reported bit of voting magic , and Vladimir Putin is back as Kremlin boss. Putin owes much of his victory to the Caucasus, and, already, the congratulations are coming in from territories and countries in the Russian-owned, Russian-occupied or otherwise Russian-preoccupied region.
First to the north, where Chechnya’s flamboyant strongman Ramzan Kadirov even burst into a little dance  at a polling station to display his support for his patron. The Chechen cha-cha-cha seems to have worked. Within Russia’s federal borders, Putin garnered most of his votes in tightly ruled Chechnya, and the least votes in skeptical Moscow, according to preliminary results .
South of the Caucasus ridge, separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both safely tucked inside a wall of Russian arms, reported 90 percent support for Putin among registered Russian voters. The separatist chiefs of these territories, both existentially dependent on Moscow, did not opt for an interpretive dance, but did cast their votes for Putin and encouraged their electorates to follow suit.
Breakaway Abkhazia’s de-facto President Alexander Ankvab, who, unlike his Chechen counterpart, claims he is in charge of an independent state (but holds a Russian passport nonetheless), said it was his pleasure to vote for Vladimir Vladimirovich .
When it comes to non-disputed countries, Armenia, a recipient of considerable Russian political and financial aid, was the most enthusiastic about the Putin comeback. In his thumbs-up to Putin, President Serzh Sargsyan wrote  that he is looking forward to the further deepening of economic ties -- in other words, more Russian money -- in the years to come. He also invited Putin to drop by Armenia sometime soon.
The president of the less Russia-friendly Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev , though, did not go beyond the basic protocol in his congratulations, wishing his Russian counterpart good luck and good health, and expressing a hope of deepening their trans-mountain friendship.
Not surprisingly, no Putin valentines came from Georgia, which Putin used as a scarecrow more than once during his campaign. Tbilisi may have canceled visa requirements for Russian citizens, but it made clear that it will hate Putin whether as prime minister or president. Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandaze said  on March 5 that Georgia has no “illusions” about any progress in Russian democracy or in ties between Tbilisi and Moscow.
If these claims, congratulations and voting results tell anything, it is that six more years (at least) of Putin, means little change on either side of the Caucasus mountain range.
2012 © EurasiaNet