Saturday, November 3, 2007
OSCE to send monitors to Russia
Fri Nov 2, 5:45 PM ET
An international security organization said Friday that it will go ahead with plans for a "restricted" mission to monitor Russia's parliamentary election, and urged Moscow to cooperate fully.
Russia earlier this week significantly curtailed the number of international observers it would accept for the Dec. 2 vote, limiting the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to 70. The organization initially reacted by saying it was unsure whether it would send any observers at all.
However, on Friday, the OSCE branch that organizes observer missions said it would "attempt to observe the upcoming Duma elections by deploying a restricted election observation mission."
The OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights stressed in a statement that time was running short to monitor the election campaign — although "we hope that we may still be able to offer some assessment of the legislative framework and the very last stages of the campaign."
It urged Moscow to offer "full cooperation" in processing visas, issuing accreditation and providing other logistical assistance. It called for "full and timely access to all relevant officials and other election stakeholders."
The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has requested 20 visas for observers and is planning to seek 50 more, spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir said.
The OSCE — which includes 56 countries from Europe, central Asia and North America — sent 400 observers for the last parliamentary election in 2003. The observers described that vote as a step backward for democracy.
Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, said this week that past OSCE missions had been "unsatisfactory." He refused to elaborate, but Russia has accused Western election monitors of bias against Russia.
On Thursday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in Vienna that "we regret very much" the Russian decision to curtail the number of international observers, which he described as "rather unprecedented" in the OSCE's history.
Russia's Foreign Ministry criticized Burns on Friday for making what it called "a series of tactless statements directed toward Russia" in the Austrian capital, where the OSCE is headquartered.
"Such statements, having no basis in fact, speak only to the allergies in certain circles in the West in connection with the sovereign character of the Russian democratic system," the ministry said in a statement.