OSCE: Elections observers will not monitor Russia's vote
( dpa ) - Europe's main vote-monitoring watchdog declared Thursday that it was cancelling its mission to Russia over restrictions imposed on monitoring of the March 2 presidential vote.
"The Russian Federation has created limitations that are not conducive to undertaking election observation in accordance with it," Christian Strohal, the head of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said Thursday.
"We made every effort in good faith to deploy our mission, even under the conditions imposed by the Russian authorities," Strohal said in a statement posted on the website of the ODIHR, which is part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov deplored Thursday as an "ultimatum" the OSCE election observers' refusal of its offer to resolve ongoing disputes over monitoring of the March 2 presidential elections.
"A self-respecting country does not accept ultimatums," news agency Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying at a press conference in Moscow.
Week-long talks between Russia's election committee and the ODIHR broke down Thursday even as the first monitors received their visas and were slated to arrive in the country Friday.
In response to ODIHR complaints, Russia had compromised, permitting five more election observers and lengthening the duration of its monitoring mission.
But the organization said Thursday that it could fulfil its mandate under the "severe restrictions" imposed by Russia.
"An election is more than what happens on Election Day," Strohal said, underlining that visas were required a month before the vote to monitor the fairness of the election campaign, candidate registration and media coverage.
"What is true for every election is also true for this one: transparency strengthens democracy; politics behind closed doors weakens it," Strohal added.
Amid scandal, the ODIHR withdrew from monitoring the December 2 parliamentary elections - a move Russia decried as an effort to tarnish its vote.
"This is called an ultimatum. We regret that this approach has prevailed with the ODIHR, which testifies to the necessity of reforming this structure," Lavrov told journalists.
Russia maintains that its restrictions comply with international standards. It accuses the OSCE of being a pawn of the US and holding double standards in its vote-monitoring missions.
Lavrov said the organization had invented "its own absolutely non- transparent rules."
Lavrov argued that the ODHIR was the only vote-monitoring body making special demands, underlining that 350 international observers from 30 nations would also be monitoring the vote.
Meanwhile, another branch of the OSCE, the parliamentary assembly, also announced Thursday that its monitors were boycotting Russia's vote.