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Putin Says U.S. Pressured OSCE

President Vladimir Putin blamed the United States on Monday for the controversial refusal by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's human rights and democracy watchdog to send observers to monitor the Dec. 2 State Duma elections. 

"According to the information we have, once again this was done at the recommendation of the U.S. State Department, and we will take this into account in our relations with that country," Putin said of the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights' Nov. 16 decision not to send observers. 

The organization, which monitors elections in OSCE member countries, repeated Monday that the decision was prompted by Moscow foot-dragging on issuing visas for the monitors, and not by pressure from any government. 

"I think president Putin was misinformed," Urdur Gunnarsdottir said by telephone from Warsaw. "We do not take instructions from any government, and certainly not from the U.S. government." 

She said the accusations had not been communicated to the OSCE and would not say whether there would be an official reaction from the organization. 

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the U.S. message had been that this was up to the OSCE decide, while describing Putin's comments as election "rhetoric." 

The OSCE decision has triggered an unusually harsh reaction from the Foreign Ministry and prominent Duma deputies, who have accused the organization of fabricating an excuse to cancel the mission to undermine the legitimacy of the vote. 

Putin repeated the charges Monday as he spoke in St. Petersburg with the participants of a United Russia-sponsored competition for young managers.
"These actions cannot disrupt the elections in Russia," he said. "Their aim is to delegitimize the vote, but they will not achieve this goal." 

Putin's is the only name on the federal list for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which is overwhelmingly favored to win a majority in the next Duma. Although not himself a party member, Putin has dominated its campaign activities, making a hunt for enemies at home and abroad one of the central themes of campaign rhetoric. 

Putin has also mounted an attack on the OSCE, whose stamp of approval Russia and other former Eastern Bloc countries sought in their transition from communism during the 1990's. 

"This is just another indication that many structures, including the OSCE, are in need of reform," Putin said. "We will push firmly for this."
Political analysts said Monday that Putin's remarks demonstrated that a more aggressive policy toward the West was a central part of United Russia's campaign policy. 

"Talking about foreign powers scheming against Russia is still a fruitful campaign strategy, but it harms Russian foreign policy," said Fyodor Lukyanov, political analyst and editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine. 

Remarks like these add to Russia's negative image in the West and, particularly, in the United States, where the public will not see this strictly as campaign rhetoric, Lukyanov added. 

Sergei Mikheyev, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, said the conflict between Moscow and OSCE reflects the mutual frustration between Russia and the West. 

"The Kremlin whips up hysteria about Western-sponsored colored revolutions in Russia, which no one here really wants to take in, while the West is in a stupor after realizing that there is no meaningful political opposition to Putin," he said.
Putin's Monday accusations aimed at Washington were just the latest in a string of blunt anti-Western invectives by a president whose rhetoric has increasingly departed from traditional diplomatic speak as he feels the West continues to ignore Russia's interests, said Lukyanov. 

In February, in a speech at a security conference in Munich, he accused the United States of jeopardizing global security by trying to assert its dominance across the world. In a May 9 speech in Moscow, Putin compared an unnamed global power that was striving to dominate the world with Nazi Germany, in a barely veiled reference that elicited an angry reaction from U.S. officials.


(The Moscow Times 27.xi.07)

 
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