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    Election watchdog OSCE set to miss Russian December polls

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    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Friday it would not be monitoring parliamentary polls in Russia on December 2 due to "delays and restrictions" imposed by Moscow.

    MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Friday it would not be monitoring parliamentary polls in Russia on December 2 due to "delays and restrictions" imposed by Moscow.

    A letter sent to the Russian election commission said that organization, whose presence at elections is seen as vital by most Western governments, "regretted" that it "would be unable to deliver its mandate."

    The OSCE's election monitoring arm, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said its monitors had been "continuously denied entry visas into Russia" and accused Moscow of being unwilling to cooperate with the organization.

    Russia's top election official retorted on Friday that accreditation documents had been sent to the OSCE on time, and its refusal to monitor the polls for the State Duma, Russia's lower house, was surprising.

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

    Churov said other international missions and election officials from separate countries had also been provided with the required documents and visas. He also added that monitoring proceedings needed to be streamlined, echoing Russia's longtime criticism of the organization as ineffective and biased.

    The Foreign Ministry played down the OSCE move, saying that "Russia is not dramatizing this decision," influenced by the organization's "internal chaos."

    "Elections are our internal affair and designed to promote democracy in our country." ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said

    Kamynin said Russia had reaffirmed its willingness to receive OSCE observers from November 19 onwards at a meeting between its mission head, the Russian election chief, and a deputy foreign minister on Wednesday.

    The State Duma 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.

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