Today's front page New York Times story on Russian voting monitors sent to Belarus to rubber-stamp the recent parliamentary "election" in that country is predictably depressing. The president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, is a Putin ally; Lukashenko's supporters managed to win every seat in the 110-member Parliament. The piece follows one of the Russian monitors, Kholnazar Makhmadaliyev, as he travels around Belarus. There is nothing too surprising about the story, although this Twilight Zone-ish, hilariously paradoxical dismissal of fraud claims was amusing:

Mr. Makhmadaliyev also said he saw no reason to conduct post-mortem interviews with the two candidates in the district to ask about their experiences. If he had, he would have heard the loser, Aleksandr V. Volchanin, from the pro-Western opposition, contend that the vote count had clearly been falsified.

Election officials said Mr. Volchanin, a 46-year-old paramedic, received 24 percent of the vote, but he said the tally was highly suspicious because of a delay of several hours in announcing it.

“I think that they were very strongly thinking about what figures they wanted to put out there,” Mr. Volchanin said.

The winner, Dr. Vasily V. Lutikov, 51, a Lukashenko supporter, said Mr. Volchanin was looking for excuses. “Of course, he is going to complain,” Dr. Lutikov said. “He is upset — no one voted for him.” [Italics Mine]

--Isaac Chotiner