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Duma elections to be monitored by 350 international observers

MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - A total of 350 observers will monitor elections to Russia's lower house of parliament on December 2, about three times fewer than four years ago, the top election official said on Tuesday.

Vladimir Churov explained that the number of foreign observers had been cut in order to involve "professionals" in monitoring. "When we work with professionals, we gain practical benefit," he told a news conference in Moscow.

Moscow earlier announced a cutback in monitoring by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and a ban on public reports immediately following the elections. The measures drew criticism from U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who called them "quite negative."

Churov said a total of just over 200 people worked in the Central Election Commission, and it would be problematic for such a small team to provide good working conditions for over a thousand foreign observers.

The OSCE received an official invitation to monitor the State Duma elections on October 31. The invitation limited the number of monitors to 70, and placed restrictions on the time allotted for the observers to carry out their work.

"A mission of up to 30 people has been invited from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, meaning a total of 100 observers from OSCE structures," Churov said.

A small group of observers has been invited from the Nordic Council.

"We have also invited our colleagues from election authorities of Britain, Hungary, Jordan, Spain, Italy, Mongolia, Poland, Finland, France, Germany, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine," he said.

The Duma elections are also expected to see observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Association of Central and Eastern European Election, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

A total of eleven parties will run for the lower house of Russia's parliament, according to the Central Election Commission.

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