( RIA Novosti ) - Lawmakers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have begun monitoring the run-up to December 2 parliamentary elections in Russia, the organization announced on Monday.
Russia earlier invited additional representatives from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, after the OSCE's main election monitoring arm, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), refused to attend, citing unprecedented restrictions and Russia's failure to issue visas to monitors.
OSCE PA Communications Director Klas Bergman said the group traveling to Russia "comprises 40 delegates, including 31 parliamentarians from 20 countries."
He said the mission would be led by the president of the OSCE PA, Sweden's Goran Lennmarker.
Monitoring by the 56-member OSCE, a Vienna-based organization that includes the United States and Canada, is considered by Western nations a key requisite for declaring elections free and fair. However, Russia has accused the organization of bias towards pro-Western forces.
President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the refusal of the ODIHR to dispatch observers to Russia's parliamentary elections had been made on recommendations from the U.S.
Asked about Russia's accusations, ODIHR Director Christian Strohal said last week that the organization does not take orders from any state.