Eu/russia : Putin: Poll Will Be as "Transparent and Open as Possible"

Article excerpt

In a bid to defuse tensions surrounding Russia's parliamentary elections on 2 December, Russia's President Vladimir Putin has pledged to hold a poll that will be as "transparent and open as possible" without "organisational failures and problems". "I am confident that this upcoming election will be of precisely this kind," Putin said, addressing members of the diplomatic corps in Moscow, including ambassadors of the EU member states on 28 November.

The statement came after the EU expressed its concern, on 16 November, about the OSCE's (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) decision to cancel its mission to observe Russia's elections. Following weeks of tension, the OSCE said it could not monitor the vote due to substantive restrictions on the number of observers imposed by Russian authorities, lack of proper cooperation and continued visa delays for the participants of the mission. The Commission urged Putin to live up to his commitment, which he undertook at the EU-Russia summit in Mafra on 26 October, and ensure that the poll would be conducted in line with democratic standards.

The EU alsoacriticised the Kremlin for imposing restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly during the election campaign. The European Commission's President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed concern about a violent crackdown by Russian riot police on peaceful protests by opponents of Putin on 24-25 November. He urged the Russian authorities to release all the detained protesters and provide unrestricted freedom of expression and assembly ahead of the elections.

Putin dismissed the EU's criticism and warned the international community against interfering in Russia's internal affairs. "[ ] we have done everything we can to free Russia from internal upheaval and place it firmly on the road of evolutionary development. And, I am forced to repeat, we will not allow any external interference in this process," said Putin.

"IMPORTANT PARTNER"

Putin expressed hope that "difficulties the EU is going through" will soon be overcome, allowing Russia and the EU, which he called "an important partner", to improve their relations. …