(MSN) Europe's election watchdog said on Friday it had no choice but to accept Russian limitations on its monitoring of a December parliamentary election expected to highlight President Vladimir Putin's strong hold on power.
Washington has criticised the Kremlin's decision to slash monitor numbers to less than a quarter of those admitted for Russia's 2003 election; this in a country spanning 11 time zones and 11,000 km ( 7,000 miles) from the Baltic to the Pacific.
Officials at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Russia's invitation, received on Wednesday, was two months late and its limitations could hamper any assessment.
"(We) will attempt to observe the upcoming Duma elections by deploying a restricted election observation mission," said Urdur Gunnarsdottir, spokeswoman for the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, its vote monitoring arm.
She said this would require swift issuing of visas and accreditation for up to 70 observers approved.
"We will have to move quickly now, we have not been able to prepare as we normally do in other elections ... We hope that we may still be able to offer some assessment of the legislative framework and the very last stages of the campaign."
Opinion polls suggest Putin's United Russia bloc will win a huge majority. Opponents say increased state domination of news media give the bloc an undemocratic edge.
Putin, popular for his moves to restore central control after the chaos of the immediate post-Soviet years, must step down as president when his second term ends next year. But he has hinted he might use parliament as a continued power base.
Gunnarsdottir said Russia's conditions were accepted "reluctantly" because there was no time left for negotiations.
Diplomats in the OSCE see Russia's new restrictions as part of a Kremlin campaign to roll back what it regards as efforts to impose Western influence in the vast former Soviet region.
The OSCE said Russia's 2003 vote had flaws, including a lack of equal access to media for opposition parties.
Russia has also floated a proposal to the 56-nation OSCE's ministerial council that would permanently reduce monitor missions in seven former Soviet states and ban them from issuing public reports right after the election.
The United States said on Thursday the proposal was likely to face majority opposition in Europe's biggest security and rights body, whose ministers make decisions based on consensus.
OSCE foreign ministers are expected to discuss Russia's draft proposal at a November 29-30 gathering in Madrid.