Source AP ©

Putin: Russia not to tolerate foreign meddling

This weekend’s parliamentary elections will be honest and open, President Vladimir Putin promised foreign diplomats Wednesday, noticing that Russia will not tolerate foreign meddling.

The elections Sunday for the State Duma, the powerful lower house of parliament, have come under criticism abroad and from Russia's fractured opposition. Critics charge the vote is being manipulated by the Kremlin to ensure an overwhelming victory for the pro-Putin United Russia party.

"We know the value of authentic democracy and are interested in conducting honest, maximally transparent and open elections without organizational shortcomings and malfunctions," Putin told diplomats in a meeting at the Kremlin. "We are sure that this will be done."

Skepticism about the elections rose last week after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it would not monitor the elections because Russia had delayed visas so long that the mission could not do adequate work.

Putin alleged this week that the decision not to send observers was encouraged by the United States to undermine trust in Russia. In recent months, Putin has increasingly accused the West, and the United States in particular, of trying to impose its own concept of democracy on Russia.

"We've done everything to rid Russia of internal turmoil. I must repeat that we will not allow these processes to be corrected from outside," Putin told the diplomatic corps.

The elections have been criticized on various grounds, including the 7-percent barrier that a party must reach to get any of its candidates into the Duma. Only the Communist Party is seen as sure to rack up that level of support.

The Duma's 450 seats will be filled entirely by party-list. Previously, some seats were contested individually, which gave more opportunity for independents and small opposition parties to get into the parliament.

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