WARSAW (Reuters) - The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will not send observers to Russia's parliamentary elections in September, it said on Wednesday, the first time since 1993 it will not be present.
The OSCE said Russian authorities had limited the number of observers it could send to the elections, which take place amid a crackdown on Kremlin critics, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We very much regret that our observation of the forthcoming elections in Russia will not be possible," said Matteo Mecacci, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR), which monitors elections.
The ODHIR and the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) had been invited to observe the State Duma election scheduled for Sept. 17-19, but were later told they could only send 50 and 10 observers, respectively.
"The OSCE was limited to sending only a small fraction of the observers we had intended, and this simply does not enable us to carry out our work in an effective and thorough manner," OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt said.
The OSCE said current pandemic restrictions in force in Russia did not seem to prevent the organisation from sending observers.
Leonid Slutsky, a Russian lawmaker with the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, described the move by the OSCE as political and said Moscow regretted it, the RIA news agency reported.
Russia's central election commission declined to comment.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish in Warsaw and Maria Tsvetkova and Thomas Balmforth in Moscow; Editing by Angus MacSwan)