Germany says observers 'very useful' for Russian poll
Germany said Monday that independent observers would be "very useful" for Russia's presidential election next year, adding that it would work closely with whoever wins the poll.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Saturday that he would step aside for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to stand in the March 2012 polls and instead serve as government chief.
Asked for Berlin's reaction to the likely return of Putin at the helm, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "The German government will work closely with whichever president is elected democratically in Russia," stressing the countries' "strategic partnership".
"The important thing is that the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections comply with democratic standards," he told a regular press briefing.
"It would be very useful in this context, in our opinion, to deploy a sufficient number of observers."
Russia's embattled opposition has expressed serious doubts as to whether the polls will be free and fair.
The OSCE election watchdog and its parliamentary assembly boycotted the Russian presidential election in March 2008 because of restrictions imposed by Moscow amid opposition claims that the poll was rigged.
Russia, like all members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is meant to invite monitors to assess whether elections are free and fair.
Germany is Russia's most important single trading partner. Russian exports to Germany reached 31.8 billion euros ($42.8 billion dollars) last year with 26.4 billion euros' worth of goods going the other way.
Germany has also grown increasingly dependent on Russian oil and gas in recent years and will need to boost energy imports as it pursues plans to phase out its nuclear power plants by 2022.
© 2011 AFP