'Poll criticism will be seen as pressure'
A senior Russian parliamentarian has said that any criticism of Sunday's presidential polls by election watchdog monitors would be construed as an attempt to exert pressure on the country.
"If the results are subject to doubts, we will consider this as not criticism, but an attempt to exert pressure on our country and our people through the international monitoring procedure," said Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the International Affairs Committee of Russian parliament.
His statement came after Russia's Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov warned the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) observers that any comments made ahead of Sunday's polls could be considered as interference in Russia's internal policies.
"We have repeatedly asked all observer missions to refrain from making statements that could affect voter behaviour before the election results are known," Vladimir Churov said after a meeting with PACE monitors.
A delegation of 25 members of PACE, led by Andreas Gross, arrived in Moscow Wednesday for the presidential polls.
In an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper on Thursday, Gross said the upcoming presidential elections in Russia would offer little real choice.
The parliamentarian described Gross' interview with the Russian paper as "a serious setback". "I think Gross... grossly violated the Russian law... and PACE regulations," Kosachyov said.