As voters prepared to go to the polls in Ukraine on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a statement criticising Washington for what he described as its "permanent commentaries" on elections in other countries.

"How can one explain that in recent times we have seen permanent commentaries from American officials on the progress of elections in different countries?" he asked.

"These questions about elections in independent states appear to be their internal affairs and should be governed by the legal mechanisms in these countries," Lavrov said.

"American officials should adopt this approach vis-a-vis not only their own elections but also the elections of other countries."

Double standards

The vote, pitting pro-West opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko against pro-Moscow Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, is a rematch of a 21 November runoff claimed by Yanukovich but annulled by Ukraine's supreme court on grounds of fraud.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week blasted the West for complaining about irregularities in the Ukrainian electoral process while pressing ahead with plans to hold a vote next month in Iraq despite the bloodshed there and the "occupation" by US-led troops.

"We do not understand how there can be an election in a country under conditions of total occupation. ... It's absurd. It's a farce," Putin said.