Europe's largest vote-monitoring organization says it is cancelling plans to monitor Russia's upcoming presidential election because of restrictions Moscow has placed on its observers.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says it has made "every effort in good faith" to assemble a team to monitor Russia's presidential vote on March 2. However, an OSCE spokesman says Moscow imposed unacceptable limitations on the size and duration of the mission.
Earlier Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow that OSCE had laid out conditions that amount to an ultimatum.
At the State Department in Washington, an official spokesman, Tom Casey told reporters the United States supports the OSCE's judgment, and that the lack of internatiuonal monitors is an unfortunate missed opportunity for Russia.
A statement by the OSCE presidency, currently held by Finland, voiced disappointment over the failure to reach agreement on terms for organization monitoring.
The OSCE says there were constructive efforts on both sides. Russian elections officials said the pullout showed the OSCE had rejected constructive dialogue
The monitoring group earlier this week said it needed to enter Russia by February 15 to prepare for the election. Moscow first slashed the size of the monitoring team and then said the remaining poll watchers could not enter Russia before February 20.
The OSCE took similar action late last year, abandoning a plan to monitor Russia's December parliamentary elections. The group blamed that cancellation on what it said were unacceptable Russian delays in issuing visas. Moscow also reduced the number of OSCE observers to 70; about 400 OSCE observers monitored Russia's 2003 elections.