Monday, November 26, 2007

Russian dressing down

Are the Russians giving up on democracy and returning to the autocratic ways of the former Soviet Union? Russian President Vladimir Putin today accused the U.S. of convincing international observers to stop their efforts to monitor that country's parliamentary elections to raise doubts about the results. But it appears that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had valid reasons for pulling out. According to the New York Times, a spokesman for the ODIHR said it had withdrawn because restrictions placed on the group by the Russian government made its task impossible. The Russians delayed issuing visas to the group, causing observers to miss most of the campaign, and then limited it to 70 people, rather than 400 as in 2003. Putin said the ODIHR decision was the result of U.S. interference in Russian affairs, but Putin's critics in Russia say he doesn't want observers to witness that the elections are not conducted fairly, the newspaper said. On Saturday, former world chess champion Gary Kasparov, who leads the Other Russia movement, was arrested as he tried to deliver a letter protesting the conduct of the election to federal authorities.

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