One day after thousands protested in Moscow against the Russian parliament elections that international observers and opposition leaders say were marred by fraud, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the issue at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Speaking at the OSCE ministerial meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, Clinton urged Russia to take action on the OSCE election observer mission’s forthcoming recommendations about Sunday’s Duma elections.
“We have serious concerns about the conduct of the elections," said Clinton. "Independent political parties, such as PARNAS, were denied the right to register. And the preliminary report by the OSCE cites election day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists and other troubling practices.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also attending the conference.
Secretary Clinton added that she is concerned by reports that independent Russian election observers were harassed and had cyber attacks on their websites.
The subject of online freedom permeated Clinton’s address at the OSCE.
She says rights exercised in cyber space deserve as much protection as those exercised in real space.
“Fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association and religion apply as much to a Twitter conversation and a gathering organized by NGOs [non-governmental organizations] on Facebook as they do to a demonstration in a public square,” said Clinton.
Clinton also urged OSCE members to reach out to Middle Eastern and North African nations as they undergo democratic transitions.
“Many participating OSCE states, which have made the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, have expertise that is uniquely relevant for the work ahead in our Mediterranean partner states," she said. "We hope this ministerial will open new channels of engagement between OSCE states and those partners, in both directions.”
Following her speech, Clinton met with civil society representatives from Belarus, where she said human-rights defenders face persecution.