Putin accuses U.S. of meddling in Russian vote
President Vladimir Putin accused Washington on Monday of plotting to undermine parliamentary elections on December 2, seen widely as a demonstration of his enduring power in Russia. Putin , drawing on resurgent nationalist sentiment ahead of Sunday's poll, said Russia must maintain its defenses to discourage others from "poking their snotty noses" in its affairs.Europe joined the United States in voicing concern over a weekend police crackdown on protests by an opposition that says it has been banished from the airwaves and from the streets by the Kremlin.U.S . President George W. Bush, who hosted Putin at his family's seaside estate for a "lobster summit" in July, said he was "deeply concerned" about the detention of rights activists and political leaders, as well as the force used at rallies. Putin , who must step down as president early next year, said he saw Washington's hand in a decision by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's ODIHR monitoring arm to abandon plans to observe the parliamentary election. "We have information that, once again, this was done on the recommendation of the U.S. State Department," the 55-year-old leader, running as No. 1 on United Russia's slate of candidates, said at a meeting with party activists."Their aim is to deprive the elections of legitimacy, that is absolutely clear," Putin said in his home city of St Petersburg. ODIHR has said Russian obstruction left it with no choice but to cancel the monitoring mission. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that while Washington supported the OSCE's decision, it had not influenced OSCE representatives. "Our very clear message (to them) was that this is your decision. We don't want to try to influence you one way or another," McCormack told reporters. He dismissed Putin's sharp language as election rhetoric. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the fact that the U.S. State Department and ODHIR monitors had met proved collusion to influence the observers. "The issue of ODHIR's refusal to send observers has been indeed discussed between ODHIR and the American side. This only proves that President Vladimir Putin's words were absolutely true," Peskov said by telephone /News yahoo /.