Russia poll watchdog wants probe into Euro monitors: reports

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The head of Russia's election commission has asked prosecutors to investigate the work of European vote monitors who visited Moscow ahead of next month's parliamentary polls, reports said Wednesday.

Vladimir Churov, a staunch ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has filed official requests to the Office of the General Prosecutor and the Foreign Ministry to probe the work of a delegation Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) which visited Moscow last week, Kommersant and Vedomosti broadsheets said.

The requests come after the European monitors spoke of "major concerns about a level playing field" during the campaign ahead of December 4 polls.

Contacted by AFP, the Central Election Commission, the Office of the General Prosecutor and the Foreign Ministry declined comment.

Kommersant said Churov suggested that the delegation might have violated Russian law by criticising the ongoing campaign, while a source in the election commission told the newspaper that the delegation members found in violation of the law may lose their Russian accreditation.

A forty-member team of PACE monitors is expected to arrive in Russia early next month, following a smaller pre-electoral delegation which visited Russia on November 8-11.

During that visit, the delegation headed by Dutch politician Tiny Kox, met with members of both the ruling United Russia party and the opposition.

In a statement released at the end of its mission, it expressed regret that Churov cancelled a scheduled meeting at short notice "with no reason given."

The delegation also said it was told of "serious problems" in the campaign including "serious concern that the election results could be manipulated."

A source close the election commission told Kommersant the Russian poll watchdog took issue with a news conference the PACE delegation gave in Moscow, singling out delegation member Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin's criticism of billboards by Putin's United Russia party.

Earlier this month the United Russia found itself mired in controversy after critics pointed out that its election billboards were almost identical to those of the Moscow election watchdog encouraging Russians to vote.

Senior United Russia party member Ruslan Gattarov told Kommersant that Kox and de Pourbaix-Lundin could lose their Russian accreditation.

Seven parties are running in the polls, with Putin's United Russia expected to win the most votes.

© 2011 AFP

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