Russia halves number of international monitors for presidential vote

Russia has invited only 400 international monitors to observe the crucial presidential election in March, the country's election chief said Monday - half the number that participated four years ago. Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov insisted that the number was adequate to judge whether the vote is free and fair. Around 70 representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose reports are considered authoritative in the West, have been invited and will be joined by delegates from the European Parliament, the OSCE's parliamentary assembly and the Commonwealth of Independent States, he said. He also pledged that Russian authorities would do nothing to impede the observers.