Monitor: Moscow Sidelining the OSCE

HELSINKI -- A senior European election monitor accused Russia on Tuesday of trying to undermine Europe's human rights watchdog by setting up its own elections watchdog for countries of the former Soviet Union.

"We know Russia is skeptical about the OSCE as a whole at present -- they are not even paying their dues for the budget," said Kimmo Kiljunen, who led the monitoring of disputed Kyrgyz elections for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"[But] the Russian Federation is now actually aiming to create their own election observation processes as a competitor to the OSCE. That's a very dangerous step," he said.

Tens of thousands of protesters have seized several Kyrgyz towns, aiming to oust Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev after February elections deemed valid by authorities but flawed by international observers, including the OSCE.

Finnish lawmaker Kiljunen, who also monitored Moldova's elections for the OSCE, said the Kyrgyz vote was undemocratic as some candidates were barred from running, the media was biased and the government bought votes.

This conflicts with the verdict of election monitors from the CIS, a group of former Soviet republics dominated by Russia.

The CIS monitors gave the Kyrgyz vote a clean bill of health, but Kiljunen said their objectivity was questionable and their presence devalued the legitimacy of election observers.

"The CIS group that was observing the Kyrgyzstan elections was actually hosted by the government in the way that ... they were part of the government delegation," he said.

"Now the Russians are creating competitive election observation processes. That allows governments to choose the best ones they like, and that is very problematic for the legitimacy of international observation," Kiljunen said.