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Russia's top election official invited on Friday
Russia's top election official invited on Friday the head of the OSCE's election observing arm to talks in Moscow next week to discuss the starting date for monitoring the presidential election.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) earlier set a quota on observers from the election monitoring body, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), at 70, and fixed the date of their arrival in the country for February 27-28.

However, the ODIRH has requested access to both the March 2 presidential election and the preceding election campaign, and wants to be admitted to the country earlier.

On Thursday, Curtis Budden, a spokesman for the ODIHR, was quoted by daily Moskovsky Komsomolets as saying that the conditions set by Russia's Central Electoral Commission meant that his organization would be unable to perform its functions fully.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission has approved ballot papers for the presidential election after a technical dispute involving presidential runner Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who leads the Liberal-Democratic Party. A CEC member from the party had asked for the Zhirinovsky's formal position, as written on ballot papers, to be altered.

In addition to the ultranationalist Zhirinovsky, another three candidates have passed the registration procedures: First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, and Andrei Bogdanov, the leader of the tiny pro-Western Democratic Party.

The state-run VTsIOM opinion center forecast on Thursday that Medvedev, the clear front-runner endorsed by President Vladimir Putin, will receive 74.8% of the vote on March 2.

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