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  Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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The OSCE's election observing arm agreed Friday to send its representatives
The OSCE's election observing arm agreed Friday to send its representatives to a meeting next week with Russia's top election official to discuss timeframes for monitoring Russia's presidential polls.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which earlier received 70 invitations for its observers to arrive on February 27-28, has requested access to both the March 2 presidential election and the election campaign, insisting that timeframes for the mission be changed.

ODIHR spokesman Curtis Budden said on the telephone that Director Christian Strohal will not be able to meet with Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) chairman Vladimir Churov on Monday as he is in Belgrade monitoring the presidential polls, but he will send other representatives if that is acceptable to Moscow.

The ODIHR boycotted Russia's December 2 parliamentary polls citing visa delays and "unprecedented restrictions." Moscow dismissed the charges, accusing the OSCE of ineffectiveness and bias. The organization called the polls, which saw a landslide victory for the Kremlin-backed United Russia party, "not fair."

Budden denied that the voting watchdog is pursuing its own political interests in Russia. We are only interested in doing our job properly, which is a technical issue, he said.

Speaking about the timeframe set by Moscow, he said it is something "absolutely new," and the country's "unilateral interpretation of its obligations." Budden said ODIHR monitors have to arrive in Russia next week to observe the election campaign and get a full picture of the electoral process.

Earlier this week, Budden also complained that the invitations contained major restrictions on the number of observers and their monitoring work.

But Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Friday of trying to sabotage the monitoring of Russia's presidential elections.

"The OSCE is continuing to openly sabotage Russia's proposal to introduce a coordinated collective basis for monitoring," Sergei Ryabkov, in charge of European cooperation at the Foreign Ministry said. "Why should Russia have to accept ten times more international observers than other countries?"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Wednesday for the introduction of single monitoring standards and clear rules. He also complained that the ODIHR had failed to consider proposals to coordinate standards Russia submitted over two years ago.


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