Russia urges OSCE to send observers to Crimea referendum

A man rides a scooter past a billboard urging people to vote in the upcoming referendum, at the Crimean port of Sevastopol March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday called on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send its observers to monitor Crimea's controversial referendum on independence from Ukraine.

The foreign ministry said it "calls on the leadership of the OSCE, its member states and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to renounce the practice of 'double standards' and positively consider an invitation from the Crimean authorities to take part in monitoring the upcoming referendum" on Sunday.

The participation of the monitors will "agree with fundamental OSCE principles and facilitate de-escalation of the situation in the region," the statement said.

OSCE observers have repeatedly tried and failed to enter Crimea over the past days and on Saturday its monitors were turned away from trying to access peninsula after warning shots were fired as they approached a checkpoint.

The foreign ministry said the Crimean authorities had sent the invitation for the OSCE to monitor the plebiscite on Monday.

Earlier this week OSCE Chairman Didier Burkhalter said the upcoming referendum "must be considered illegal" in its current form, ruling out an OSCE observation.

Moscow said it regretted Burkhalter's remarks, reiterating its point of view that the Sunday event would be legitimate.

Citing the 1975 Helsinki Accords, Russia said that all peoples have a right to self-determination.

Russia and the West are locked in a confrontation over the fate of Ukraine's Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea, which Russian forces occupied following a popular uprising in Kiev last month.





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