PACE has evolved into Western ‘ideological tool,’ no reason to stay – Moscow

Delegates at a plenary meeting held as part of the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Fedorenko)
After leaving the Parliamentary Assembly, which Russian officials believe has lost its credibility as a platform for mature and equal dialogue, Moscow will focus on other global forums and may even reconsider its membership to the Council of Europe.

“It is impossible for us to stay in an organization which discriminates the Russian delegation,”the chief of Russia’s PACE delegation and chairman of the State Duma's Foreign AffairsAleksey Pushkovtold RT.

READ MORE: PACE strips Russia of voting rights until April over Ukraine, Russia quits for 1 yr

“Before we came to Strasbourg, we had warned our European colleagues that Russia will not accept new sanctions,” Pushkov said. “It was not a surprise, it was not a threat. It wasn't even a warning – we just informed our colleagues that in these conditions, Russia does not see the possibility of staying in the Parliamentary Assembly.”

For the time being, Pushkov said that President Putin is not contemplating the possibility of quitting the entire Council of Europe. However, he stressed that the situation is playing out a bit differently in the Russian parliament.

READ MORE: Duma chief hints at Russia’s exit from Council of Europe

Pushkov was referring to the announcement by Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin, which said that Russia may eventually cease its membership to the Council of Europe, unless its Parliamentary Assembly reverses its attitude towards Russia.

“This is the first time such a move is even being discussed,” Pushkov said. “But because there is constant obstruction of our work in the Parliamentary Assembly and because we constantly face discriminatory sanctions...Russia warned it will leave [PACE] if new sanctions are imposed, and next year will review the rationale of remaining in the Council of Europe.”

Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Alexei Pushkov is interviewed by journalists after a plenary meeting held as part of the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Fedorenko)

There are enough other multi-national organizations and forums where Russia's opinions can be heard and discussed without discrimination and on the basis of equal rights, Pushkov added. He stated that Moscow plans to defend its position in those forums, including the United Nations, “where Russia has veto power and where sanctions don't apply.”

“I think PACE is the real loser here,” Pushkov said. After Russia has stopped all communications with PACE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has the opportunity to replace the assembly as the main forum of discussion on European issues, the politician told RT.

Moreover, Pushkov believes that over the last year, PACE has lost its credibility by repeatedly violating its own core principle of protecting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. It is now serving as an “ideological tool of Western policy” which has failed to condemn numerous violations of human rights, along with the atrocities in Ukraine.

The limitation of the Russian delegation’s powers is indeed a “discriminatory act” apparently encouraged by “pro-American forces,” agrees Russian Senator and a member of the Committee on International Affairs, Igor Morozov.

“And it is of great regret, since PACE is ceasing to serve as a parliamentary debate platform, where we can discuss key issues of our time, where the delegates have an opportunity to explain to each other their national position,” Morozov told RT, adding that all parliamentary activity will be transferred to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly forum and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean.

Igor Morozov, member of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

“Depriving Russia of its powers essentially means prohibiting Russian parliamentarians from answering the questions they keep asking,” Morozov explained. “It is impossible to give a reasoned and cogent response, when we are deprived of a voice.”

Russia’s permanent representative to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, also says that PACE’s decision to strip the Russian delegation of its voting power has deprived the assembly of the opportunity to hear Russia's point of view.

“The damage from this is not to the Russian delegation, nor the Russian parliament. The damage from this is caused mostly to the Parliamentary Assembly, which will be deprived to the end of this year the possibility to hear the Russian point of view and lead a joint search for solutions to the problems that are on the agenda,” Chizhov told Sputnik.

RIA Novosti/Vladimir Fedorenko

Meanwhile, PACE president Anne Brasseur told RT that she “regrets” Russia’s decision to cut its communication with the assembly for the rest of the year.

“I think the decision of the Russian delegation to leave immediately was not the right decision,” Brasseur told RT, explaining that the suspension of one’s voting rights does not mean the delegation can’t take part in committees and discussions.

“Suspending the voting rights doesn’t mean to annul the credentials,” she said. “Each year, at the beginning of the January sessions, the credentials of all national delegations have to be ratified, unless the credentials are going to be challenged. They had been challenged in relation with Russia. And then we had a procedure, and the Parliamentary Assembly came to the conclusion not to annul the credentials of the Russian delegation, but to keep them in, suspending their voting right.”

Still hoping for the continuation of dialogue with Russia, the PACE president told journalists on Thursday that if progress on Ukraine reconciliation is achieved, the organization may cancel its restrictions on Russia after “re-evaluation” in April.