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Russia Criticizes EU's Foreign Policy Chief for 'Interfering'

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

Russia has accused the European Union foreign policy chief of interfering in its internal affairs by making statements about the Russian election.

A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, Alexander Lukashevich, said Thursday that Catherine Ashton's comments on Russia made February 1 in the European Parliament are bewildering.  

In her speech, Ashton urged the Russian government to engage in dialogue with the opposition and to review its decision to deny registration for the presidential election campaign to opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky.

She said the OSCE noted irregularities in Russia's December parliamentary election and that Russians want to see a real change.

Lukashevich said that Ashton's call for a review of the election commission's refusal to register Yavlinsky oversteps the bounds of political correctness as do her attempts to speak on behalf of Russian civil Society.

He also said Russia noticed the "unambiguous" attempts by the EU representative to question, in advance, the free and fair nature of the upcoming presidential election in Russia.  
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is set to run for a third term as president in the March election.  Reports of widespread fraud in Russia's December parliamentary vote led to anti-government demonstrations across the country.  

If Mr. Putin regains the presidency, he could serve two more six-year terms.  He was first elected president in 2000 and held that post until 2008, when he assumed the post of prime minister.  But in 2008, Russiam President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law extending presidential terms from four years to six, in a move seen as paving the way for Mr. Putin's return to the presidency.

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