KYIV, Feb 7 - Ukrainian lawmakers have voted to ban Russian citizens from serving as election monitors in the country.
The draft legislation was passed by Parliament on Thursday, ahead of next month’s presidential election and parliamentary polls later in the year.
According to the bill, Russia will not be able to send observers to the elections -- even under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which both Ukraine and Russia are member states.
The OSCE has submitted a list of candidates for the presidential election observation mission, and it included two Russians.
But the proposed legislation, which must now be signed by President Petro Poroshenko to go into effect, says that election observers cannot be citizens of a country recognized by the Ukrainian parliament as an "aggressor state or occupying state."
Ukraine's parliament declared Russia an "aggressor state" in January 2015, after Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in March 2014. Russia is also backing armed separatists in a conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.
Following the passage of the bill, the head of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee called into question the “openness and democratic nature of the election process in Ukraine.”
Moscow will raise the issue at the next OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session later this month, Leonid Slutsky said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, said that Ukraine "needs" OSCE observers, even if some are Russian citizens, "to prove it adheres to democratic standards."
Ukraine "needs to have confidence in its own democratic institutions," he tweeted. (rfe/ez)