Even as relations between the United States and Russia face increased turbulence, the U.S. State Department has said that the country is welcome to send observers to the U.S. presidential election scheduled for November this year. However, the country did not refrain from referring to Russia’s overtures as more of a publicity stunt.
As the U.S. government accuses Russia of attempting to interfere with the electoral process in the country, state officials in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana have reportedly received requests for monitoring the elections from Russian authorities, the Washington Post reported.
State Department spokesman John Kirby, during the daily press briefing Friday, said U.S policies allowed for foreign observers to be present during the electoral process and that Russia would be no exception if it applied through the proper channels.
“We told the Russian government that they were welcome to observe our elections,” Kirby told reporters.
However, as Moscow faces allegations of attempting to influence the presidential race through cyber attacks and hackings against political targets in the U.S., Kirby did not shy away from referring to Russia’s observer requests as public relation strategies.
“The fact that they have chosen to not join the OSCE observation mission makes clear that this issue is nothing more than a PR stunt,” Kirby said, referring to Russia’s refusal to join a team put together by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that monitors elections in all its member states.
He also said that all U.S. states have the power to allow Russian observers into the electoral system: “I can’t speak to the individual states and whatever their consulates have asked for or not. That is for the states to speak to and for the Russian Government, the Russian embassy here in Washington to speak to. ”
However, all three states turned down requests from Alexander K. Kazharov, Russia’s consul general in Houston, last month.
While officials in Oklahoma and Texas rejected Moscow’s requests because of state laws that do not allow foreign delegates or unauthorized personnel into polling stations, Louisiana’s Secretary of State said he would have allowed the observers during any other year but the recent floods in the state made it difficult this year.
A Russian electoral official, however, told Russian newspaper Izvestia that the U.S. state department was blocking the observers because of inherent “Russophobic tendencies,” the Guardian reported.