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OSCE Calls on Russia to Lift Restrictions on Vote Monitoring

Europe's largest security organization says Russia has imposed severe limits on the election-monitoring work it planned to carry out in conjunction with the country's March presidential elections.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which routinely monitors European polls, asked Russia Tuesday to reconsider the restrictions.

Monday, Russia's elections chief invited the organization to send 70 monitors to observe the elections compared to the 250 who watched over Russian polls four years ago.

Additionally, the OSCE says Moscow will not allow its monitors into the country until February 28. A spokesman said that restriction does not allow enough time for monitors to deploy for the March 2 vote. He said the OSCE has not yet decided whether it will go forward with the monitoring.

European monitors faced similar restrictions during December's parliamentary elections and eventually withdrew from the monitoring process.

Russian election officials have confirmed four candidates in the March 2 vote. The ballot includes Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's anointed successor. Medvedev, the current head of Russia's state-run natural gas monopoly Gazprom, is widely expected to win a landslide victory. Mr. Putin is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term.

Sunday, election officials disqualified former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov from pursuing an independent candidacy in the race.

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