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Russia says OSCE to blame in dispute over election monitoring

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the heads of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's election monitoring body were to blame for damage to relations with Russia.
MOSCOW, November 22 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the heads of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's election monitoring body were to blame for damage to relations with Russia.

"Responsibility for damage inflicted to our ties with the ODIHR [The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights] lies fully with the ODIHR leadership, as well as with those who prompted their actions," spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement published on the ministry's website.

The OSCE announced last week it would be unable to attend Russia's December 2 parliamentary elections due to "unprecedented" restrictions, saying that its monitors had been "continuously denied entry visas into Russia". The organization also accused Moscow of being unwilling to cooperate.

Kamynin denied the allegations, saying Moscow had fulfilled all its commitments, but had only seen in reply "a demonstrative unwillingness to follow procedures defined by Russian law".

The spokesman said its commitments were to invite observers, but that "no agreements regulating the parameters of election monitoring have been concluded at an interstate level in the OSCE". He also said that Russia does not accept that ODIHR "internal instructions" are an accepted standard to be used in election monitoring.

The State Duma, Russia's lower house, is currently dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia. President Putin announced in October that he would head the party's candidate list at the elections, a move which has all but guaranteed United Russia a resounding victory at December's polls.

However, the OSCE's presence at elections is seen as vital by most Western governments, and the current crisis will do little to counter mounting criticism of a perceived Kremlin crackdown on democratic principles.

The head of Russia's Central Election Commission, Vladimir Churov, earlier insisted that accreditation documents had been sent to the OSCE on time, and said its refusal to monitor the polls was surprising.

"All the relevant documents, including visas, are with the Warsaw-based ODIHR office. I do not see what could have prompted such a decision," he said.

Churov also said that the number of monitors would be the same as earlier planned, despite the refusal of the ODIHR to attend, as Russia will "simply divide the ODIHR's quota between other foreign missions".

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