The number of foreign observers invited to monitor Russia’s presidential election in March will be halved compared with last time.
President Vladimir Putin has accused European observers in previous polls of being biased.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe described last month’s elections for the state Duma as not fair.
“There will be no limitations for the foreign observers if they adhere to the law of the Russian Federation,” said the head of the election commission, Vladimir Churov. “They can visit any polling station they want.”
With or without the presence of the observers, there is little doubt who will win the vote: with the only independent candidate disqualified on Sunday, Putin’s candidate, first deputy premier Dimitry Medvedev is expected to sweep to victory.
Neither the communist candidate, Gennady Ziuganov, nor the nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky are deemed to have a chance.
And finally, critics say the fourth candidate, Andrej Bogdanov, head of the tiny Democratic party, secretly enjoys the backing of the Kremlin. The aim, they argue, is to give a semblance of a competition while ensuring that no one can effectively challenge Medvedev.