Report: Russia accuses OSCE of bias in assessing Belarusian election

MOSCOW (AP) - A top Russian diplomat accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of showing bias while preparing to assess Belarus' presidential election, a news agency reported Monday.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin blamed an OSCE mission that had visited Belarus ahead of the Sunday's vote for making what he described as a hasty negative assessment of the situation in the ex-Soviet nation, RIA Novosti news agency reported. It quoted Karasin as saying that Moscow fears that OSCE's assessment of the vote will "again be colored by ideology."

Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, branded "Europe's last dictator" by Western governments, is seeking a third term in the vote. During the election campaign, state-run media has given sharply negative coverage to opposition candidates, and police have arrested scores of opposition activists.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Moscow, accuses Western governments of trying to undermine his government by stirring up opposition around the elections, and he has vowed a heavy police presence on election day to prevent protests similar to those in Georgia and Ukraine after disputed elections there.

The 55-member OSCE said it would send some 400 observers to monitor the vote.

The election observer missions of the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights have frequently labeled elections in post-Soviet states as severely flawed, and Russia repeatedly bristled at the reports as Western attempts to interfere in countries that the Kremlin regards as within Russia's sphere of influence.

The OSCE has dismissed the Russian criticism, saying its assessments have been objective.