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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 10:01 GMT
OSCE MPs to monitor Russian poll
Christian Strohal, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
Christian Strohal says the ODIHR is still waiting for visas
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has said it will send some monitors to next month's Russian parliamentary election.

A mission of at least 40 MPs will travel to Russia, the OSCE announced.

Last week an OSCE poll monitoring body called off its mission saying Moscow had imposed "unprecedented curbs" on its 70 officials "denying them visas".

Meanwhile, former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has said the world should not recognise the poll.

Speaking in London, Mr Kasyanov said new rules curbing opposition parties, media restrictions and the high 7% threshold required to win seats in parliament meant that voting on 2 December could not be considered free and fair.
I don't want to say we can't do a proper job but we are handicapped
Kimmo Kiljunen
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

He accused President Vladimir Putin of taking a sharp turn away from democracy in the autumn of 2004 and introducing "the spirit of the KGB", something he said most Russians did not support.

Mr Kasyanov said he hoped the opposition could agree on a joint candidate to challenge the Kremlin's choice in the presidential election due in March.

'Handicapped'

Traditionally, an OSCE team of experts lays the groundwork for an observer mission, concentrating on the campaign in the three to four weeks before the poll takes place.

Russians sit near a poster saying "Moscow votes for Putin!"
Observers are concerned by the state's control of the media

That team - from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights - was planning to start in Russia on 7 November, but will not now take any part in the mission.

"We have a situation where we have not received one single visa," said the ODIHR's director, Christian Strohal.

But the OSCE said a group of its parliamentarians would go to Russia.

The group is due to arrive three days before the election and present its report the day afterwards.

In 2003, the OSCE sent more than 450 observers.

The vice-president of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly, Kimmo Kiljunen, accepted its report would not be as comprehensive.

"I don't want to say we can't do a proper job but we are handicapped" he said.

Russia bewildered

The Russian Central Electoral Commission said it was bewildered by the ODIHR's decision to scrap its observer mission last week and rejected its accusations of obstruction as "baseless".

It has instead decided to distribute the invitations not taken up by the OSCE to other groups, including the Council of Europe.

After a visit to Russia earlier this month, a Council of Europe delegation said it was confident the elections would be free but expressed concern about what "appears to be almost total state control over the electronic media".

SEE ALSO
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