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13th Apr 2024

OSCE cancels election observation mission to Russia

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday announced it would abandon a planned monitoring mission to observe Russia's presidential elections on 2 March.

The elections watchdog "regrets that restrictions imposed on its planned election observation mission will not allow it to deploy a mission to the 2 March 2008 presidential election in Russia," according to a statement published on the OSCE website.

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  • The election watchdog accuses Moscow of obstruction (Photo: kremlin.ru)

"We made every effort in good faith to deploy our mission, even under the conditions imposed by the Russian authorities," said the director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), ambassador Christian Strohal, in the press release.

But due to the restrictions imposed by Russia, the ODIHR would not be able to arrive on time and observe the process fully, the Office said on Thursday (7 February).

Earlier, the electoral watchdog's parliamentary assembly - the OSCE's second monitoring arm - also said it was pulling out.

"An election is more than what happens on Election Day (…) Therefore, the time frame set by Russian authorities has already prevented us from observing many important parts of the election process, beginning with the registration of candidates and aspects of the campaign, including the work of the media," Mr Strohal said.

Russia and the OSCE clashed primarily over the date the OSCE observers should be sent to Russia.

The organisation wanted its observers to arrive on 15 February, but Moscow said it could not accept this date and proposed 20 February instead.

"Self-respecting countries don't accept ultimatums," Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Additionally, Russia's Central Election Commission on Wednesday (6 February) refused to grant visas to some of the members of the observation team, who had planned to arrive in Russia this week.

The OSCE's spokesperson, Curtis Budden, told the AP that the situation is more than "an argument over five days".

"The point is that Russia is not willing to provide the absolute minimal conditions necessary for effective observation," he said.

Moscow rejected the accusations, saying that Russia did not have a problem accepting observers, but it did not want them making campaigns.

"The mandate [of ODIHR] is observing elections, not observing the situation in a country over a period of a month or two," Mr Lavrov said.

The EU's current holder of the presidency, Slovenia, gave the OSCE its "full support", while the bloc's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, "regretted" that the elections would not be observed.

"Once again, I urge the Russian authorities to make sure that these elections will be conducted in accordance with Russia's commitments as a member of the OSCE," Ms Ferrero-Waldner said.

The Russian presidential elections are planned for 2 March, and all signs indicate that first deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, endorsed by current president Vladimir Putin as his successor, will win easily.

The ODIHR did not send observers to Russia's parliamentary elections last December either, arguing that Moscow delayed granting visas for so long that it would not have been possible to properly assess the election preparations.

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