Europe's main election watchdog will boycott Russia's March 2 presidential vote due to excessive Kremlin restrictions, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights announced today. The group had agreed to send just 70 monitors to oversee the campaign, the New York Times reports, but when Russia barred them from arriving earlier than two weeks before the election, negotiations broke down.
The ODIHR typically sends delegates to monitor the full campaign period; in 2004, it sent 400 to Russia on election day proper. But relations between Russia and the West have steadily deteriorated since, and Dmitri Medvedev—Vladimir Putin's chosen successor—has practically secured the presidency already. "They are trying to change the rules of the game here," said one monitor.