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Georgians Cast Ballots in Municipal Elections


People in Georgia are voting Thursday to choose more than 1,700 members of municipal and regional councils.

The local elections are seen as a test of support for President Mikhail Saakashvili's National Movement and its pro-Western stance.

The election originally focused on local issues, but may now be seen as a barometer of Mr. Saakashvili's performance in his standoff with Russia following last week's arrest of four Russian officers accused of spying.

The Russian government has severed transport and postal links with Tbilisi, cutting an economic lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Georgians dependent on relatives living in Russia.

Since coming to power in the 2003 Rose Revolution, Mr. Saakashvili has sought to forge closer ties with the European Union and United States.

Additionally, Georgia has long accused Russia of interfering in its internal affairs by backing separatists in two breakaway areas of the country - Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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