The crushing of an apparently legitimate election victory in South Ossetia, a key client state of Moscow, could bring a fresh wave of unwanted attention to Russia's own problematic democracy.
It is responsible for economically troubled South Ossetia and may have spurred the European Union to seek alternative sources of energy.
The war with Georgia has many calling for North and South Ossetia to unite.
As EU monitors arrive, new details contradict Russia's assertion that Georgia invaded South Ossetia first.
After weeks of escalating skirmishes with South Ossetia, Georgia moved to regain control of the enclave. Russia responded by sending in tanks.