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OSCE Cancels Plan to Monitor Russian Elections


The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it will not monitor parliamentary elections in Russia next month due to official restrictions imposed by that country. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has details from Moscow.

A statement issued in Warsaw by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights says attempts to obtain Russian entry visas for its experts and observers have been repeatedly denied. The statement says the office therefore concludes that Russian authorities remain unwilling to receive ODIHR observers in a timely and cooperative manner.

ODIHR spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir tells the VOA the organization was also frustrated in its efforts to observe not only on election day, but also the campaign and media coverage in the lead-up to the polls. Gunnarsdottir says that with just over two weeks remaining before election day, the OSCE cannot observe the process in a meaningful way.

"It's not an easy decision for us to make," she said. "We realize that this is going to upset many. But we don't see that we are able to observe any longer, and we don't see that we have a choice."

A member of the Russian Central Electoral Commission, Igor Borisov says the OSCE decision is "unconstructive." Borisov tells the VOA it would not have been useful for the OSCE to observe early procedures, such as the registration of political parties.

Borisov says the commission thought it would be better if OSCE monitoring began after party registration. He said that would allow the monitors to decide where to observe the actual contenders. He says, why pay attention to the Green Party, for example, which did not succeed in being on the ballot.

Other international observers may still monitor the Russian elections, but without the OSCE there will be fewer overall.

Russia invited 70 OSCE monitors to observe the December 2 elections, compared to 400 in the previous vote in 2003. All 56 member states of the OSCE, including Russia, are party to a 1990 agreement to invite international observers for election monitoring.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin says the country is not dramatizing the OSCE move, adding that elections are a sovereign right of Russia aimed at strengthening the country's democracy.

But in remarks to the VOA, Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomarev said the OSCE decision hurts Russia's international reputation.

The activist says it is difficult to predict how events unfold. If the OSCE pronounces the elections illegitimate, Ponomarev asks, how can Russia continue to belong to international democratic organizations such as the Group of Eight industrialized nations?

Those nations include the United States, Britain and France, which have always permitted OSCE election monitoring.

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