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Russia accuses OSCE of sabotaging March elections

RIA Novosti

01/02/2008 15:27 MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of trying to sabotage the monitoring of Russia's presidential elections scheduled for March 2.

Its election body, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), criticized Russia for imposing restrictions on the watchdog's monitoring activities and issuing visas starting February 28, which only allows observers three days to prepare for the elections.

"The OSCE is continuing to openly sabotage Russia's proposal to introduce a coordinated collective basis for monitoring," Sergei Ryabkov, in charge of European cooperation at the Foreign Ministry said, "Why should Russia have to accept ten times more international observers than other countries?"

Vladimir Churov, head of Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC), who invited the ODIHR director, Christian Strohal, to talks in Moscow next week, said on Monday that 70 observers had been invited to monitor the country's presidential polls.

Commenting on Churov's invitation, Ryabkov expressed hope that the European voting watchdog would be guided by "common sense" and send its observers on time so that they can "document full democracy in our election procedures and give the March 2 vote an appropriate rating."

However, Curtis Budden, ODIHR spokesman, complained earlier this week that the invitations contained major restrictions on the number of observers, the visa entry dates and their monitoring work.

Maya Grishina, a CEC member, said Russia has the right to send invitations independently and that its quotas were sufficient to allow efficient monitoring.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Wednesday for the introduction of single monitoring standards and clear rules. He also complained that the ODIHR had failed to consider a proposal on coordinating standards submitted by Russia over two years ago.

"We honor our commitments to the OSCE's ODIHR to a letter," the diplomat said.

The ODIHR boycotted Russia's parliamentary polls on December 2 citing visa delays and "unprecedented restrictions." Moscow dismissed the charges, accusing the OSCE of ineffectiveness and bias.

The OSCE called the December 2 parliamentary elections, which saw a landslide victory for the Kremlin-backed United Russia party, "not fair."

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