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    Russia pledges freedom for observers during elections

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    International observers will not be subject to any restrictions during Russia's March 2 presidential elections, a Central Election Commission member said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - International observers will not be subject to any restrictions during Russia's March 2 presidential elections, a Central Election Commission member said Tuesday.

    "There will be no restrictions for observers," Igor Borisov told journalists.

    Borisov said that there would only be some restrictions on movement in the troubled North Caucasus republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya due to the necessity "to ensure observers' security."

    He said objective people would be invited as observers, adding that recommendations of monitors will be taken into account.

    The secretary of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party General Council presidium, Vyacheslav Volodin, said presidential frontrunner, Dmitry Medvedev, would not take part in any TV election debates preferring to meet voters personally.

    Volodin said participation in election debates would prevent First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev from resolving specific issues facing the country.

    "Medvedev would prefer to resolve specific problems instead of debates that would inevitably involve stopping his work regime," Volodin said, adding that often candidates and party leaders make beautiful but empty promises during these TV discussions.

    Four candidates have passed registration procedures ahead of presidential elections: Medvedev, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, the leader of the tiny pro-Western Democratic Party.

    Zhirinovsky and Bogdanov said they would take part in the TV debates, whereas Zyuganov has not made up his mind yet.

    The OSCE's election monitoring arm asked Russia on Tuesday to reconsider its quotas on the number of observers attending the March 2 presidential polls and their mandates.

    Curtis Budden, spokesman for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), complained that the invitations received contain serious restrictions on the number of observers and their monitoring work.

    Vladimir Churov, head of the Russian Central Election Commission, said on Monday that 70 ODIHR observers had been invited to monitor the country's presidential polls.

    The ODIHR boycotted Russia's parliamentary polls on December 2 citing visa delays and "unprecedented restrictions." Moscow dismissed the charges, accusing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of ineffectiveness and bias.

    The OSCE called the December 2 parliamentary elections, which saw a landslide victory for the Kremlin-backed United Russia party, "not fair."

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