Russia denies Danish election observers

Russian opposition official had invited the Danes under the auspices of a seminar

Forty Danes who intended to follow the March 4 presidential election in Russia as observers have been denied entry to the country, Politiken newspaper reports.

Russia denied the visa applications of the 40 Danes, who were members of the group Support Initiative for Liberty and Democracy (SILBA) and Radikale’s youth organisation, Radikal Ungdom.

SILBA’s foreman, Jens-Kristian Lütken, said he was surprised by Russia’s decision.

“We had a similar arrangement with the Russian parliamentary elections on December 4, and at that time there were no problems,” he told Politiken.

Ksenia Vakhrusjeva of Russian social-liberal party Yabloko told the newspaper that she had invited SILBA to participate in a seminar as part of a standing agreement between the EU and Russia and that she received the run-around in trying to get the invitation approved before getting a rejection via telephone from the foreign ministry in Moscow.

“We haven’t tried to push the case through the immigration offices, but that would take 30 days and by then the election is over,” she told Politiken, adding that her party does not have the authority to officially invite observers and therefore extended the invitation to the seminar.

Although that means that Russia didn’t technically reject election observers, Lütken said that was the clear intention of denying the Danes entry.

“No-one could doubt what we would be doing, and that you have to bend these kinds of rules,” he said. “The Russian authorities aren’t interested in having too many foreigners in Russia if there are protests following the election.”