The State Department has dismissed requests from Russia to send observers to US polling stations next month as a propaganda stunt.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Russian officials were offered places on a team led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has dispatched monitors to US elections since 2002.
“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.
Russia could also apply directly to individual US states for accreditation, he added. “There’s nothing for us to fear from having Russian observers observing our election.”
However, authorities in the three states of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas say they have denied requests from the Russian consulate to have observers at polling places next month.
The Russian Embassy in Washington said Friday it was “baffled” by how the US government is responding to its requests.
“Overall, we are disappointed with the reaction of the US administration, and, on top of that, with the unfriendly way it is currently portraying our desire to pursue normal diplomatic work in respectful contact with the authorities of the host country, which we hoped for,” the embassy said in a statement.
A Russian election official suggested that the US obstructed Russia’s attempts to observe the November elections because “they see them as a threat,” according to a report by Russia Today.
The row comes amid tensions between Moscow and Washington over claims that Russia has been trying to undermine the US elections through cyber attacks, possibly in favor of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Trump has come under fire for his stances on Russia and his refusal to acknowledge the US intelligence community’s consensus that the Russian government was behind the hack of US political organizations including the Democratic National Committee.
The real estate mogul has also repeatedly warned that the upcoming election is being “rigged,” and called on his supporters to watch for fraud at polling places.