Source AP ©

US advised OSCE not to send observers to monitor Russian elections

The OSCE didn’t send its observers to monitor Russian elections next week because of U.S. influence, President Vladimir Putin said Monday, according to Russia ’s news agencies.

"According to the information we have, once again this was done at the advice of the U.S. State Department, and we will take this into account in our relations with that country," the reports quoted Putin as saying, referring to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's decision not to send observers.

The tough statement reflected a growing chill in Moscow's relations with Washington. It also appeared to send a strong warning that any U.S. criticism of the vote would be unacceptable.

The Dec. 2 vote is expected to help secure Putin's grip on power even after he steps down next spring.

Putin said the refusal to send observers was aimed at casting doubt over the legitimacy of the vote.

"But they won't achieve this goal," he was quoted as saying.

The U.S. embassy in Moscow declined immediate comment.

The OSCE election monitoring office said on Nov. 16 that it would not send a mission to observe the Dec. 2 parliamentary elections, saying Moscow had not issued visas in time and created other obstacles. Russia also said it would allow the OSCE to send only 70 observers - far fewer than in previous elections.

When the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights announced its refusal to send observers, the U.S. State Department criticized Russia's restrictions on foreign observers and said that Moscow had deliberately hindered the OSCE's ability to send observers for the vote.

Russian officials blamed the OSCE for the problem and alleged that the United States was calling the shots.

The OSCE - which includes the United States, Canada, European countries and ex-Soviet republics - is widely regarded in the West as the most authoritative assessor of whether elections are conducted in line with democratic principles. Its observers have criticized several votes in Russia and some other ex-Soviet republics.

Russia and some of its allies say the OSCE's election monitoring is biased and that it tacitly supports pro-Western opposition forces. OSCE election assessments were seen as key factors in encouraging massive protests in Georgia and Ukraine that powered Western-oriented leaders into office.