Two human rights groups said they will not be sending observers to oversee next month's presidential elections in Russia’s troubled province of Chechnya because of security concerns.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Strasbourg-based pan-European Council of Europe said their observers will stay away from the October 5 election.
“They decided not to send observers because it is not safe, it is one of the reasons,” a diplomatic source, who declined to be named said Friday referring to the OSCE's decision.
The 55-nation OSCE withdrew staff from war-ravaged Chechnya in December and the Kremlin has since refused to allow them to return with anything more than a limited humanitarian mandate.
President Vladimir Putin's advisor for Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said in July that the OSCE has sided with separatists in the Russian republic.
"It considered that, given the difficult security situation in particular, it was not possible to send an observer delegation"
Council of Europe
A Russian legislator on Friday scorned OSCE’s decision.
“The OSCE just demonstrated its infamous inertia yet again,” the State Duma lower house of parliament's Deputy Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky told Moscow Echo radio.
“I do not think this will affect the presidential election one bit. It will still remain legitimate,” he said.
Council of Europe
The pan-European human rights watchdog the Council of Europe said it was opposed to sending observers to Chechnya.
“It considered that, given the difficult security situation in particular, it was not possible to send an observer delegation,” the Council's Parliamentary Assembly said in a written statement from Strasbourg.
Critics claim that legitimate elections in Chechnya are anathema, as the province was shattered by the years of war, fighting continues and the Russian government has ruled out many potential contenders.
Chechnya's pro-Kremlin leader Akhmad Kadryov is the favourite to win the election.
The OSCE has sent election observers to a number of countries, including those in the former Soviet Union such as Belarus in 2001.
In fact, OSCE observers verified the last Chechen presidential election -- which saw rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov take the helm in January 1997 after the republic won de facto independence from Russia following a two-year war -- as legitimate.
Chechnya is a vastly wealthy province with huge gas, oil and other mineral reserves.