Russia warns PACE over critical resolution, double standards

Aleksei Pushkov, chairman, the Duma committee on international affairs, attending the Duma meeting. (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Fedorenko)
PACE has approved the largest and most detailed resolution on Russian policies, despite protests from Russian MPs who slammed the document as biased and warned of repercussions.

The resolution noted certain positive steps taken by Russian authorities, such as the recent liberalization of the Law on Political Parties and the return of direct gubernatorial elections.

At the same time the European MPs voiced concern over the course Russia may be taking, noting a number of recently approved bills.The controversial legislation included the criminalization of slander, the bill on internet freedoms, the bill on rallies and the recent toughening of NGO regulations. They called for the Russian authorities to provide guarantees that these laws will be changed in the future and that opposition forces are given an opportunity to become truly competitive.

PACE also demanded that Russia impose a real ban on the death penalty, instead of the current moratorium that exists due to Russia’s internal legal problems.

Besides, the document included demands to retract the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Independent states and to immediately withdraw troops from Moldova. (Russia recognized the two Caucasian republics as independent states in 2008 after neighboring Georgia attempted to capture South Ossetia by military force. Russian peacekeepers were deployed to Moldova in the mid-90s to prevent confrontation with the self-proclaimed Republic of Transdniestr).

However, the Parliamentary Assembly rejected the item Russia was most opposed to – the recommendations to shift oversight of Russia to the level of PACE leadership.

Before the vote, the Russian delegation said it was upset by the stubbornness of rapporteurs who wanted to push the critical amendments allowing such a move.

“It appears that Russia is the only country under monitoring that deserves special attention from the Committee of Ministers. This is discrimination against the Russian Federation and a shining example of double standards,” Aleksey Pushkov, the head of Duma's International Relations committee told the assembly.

He reminded the European politicians that such an approach had already caused the Russian Lower House Speaker, Sergey Naryshkin, to refuse to take part in the PACE session. Pushkov said that Russia forwarded its remarks on the draft recommendation before the planned visit, but these remarks were not heard and were not understood.

“Russia has found itself in a position of an outcast. This is inadmissible. If the recommendations are passed this will have the most negative consequences,” the Russian official warned.

Russia’s choice in favor of cooperation with the Council of Europe cannot be doubted, but such cooperation must be built on mutual respect, added PACE Vice President and Russian MP Leonid Slutsky.

In a separate comment, another top Russian MP called the PACE report on Russia “really weak” and suggested that the document was hardly interesting to the EU citizens.

“I have an impression that this resolution is meant to support the non-system opposition in Russia. This is a wrong policy that has already discredited itself in the world,” said the head of the Duma Security Committee, Irina Yarovaya.

“In essence this is a pressure on an independent court system in a sovereign state, a statement that those who list themselves as opposition have the right for unlawful behavior without fear of punishment,” she added.

Earlier, Aleksey Pushkov said he expected a heated debate at the PACE session, and stressed the Russian delegation intended to vote against the recommendations of the PACE rapporteurs.

Last week, the speaker of the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, Sergey Naryshkin, announced that he canceled his planned first-ever visit to the PACE session as he felt that it was unlikely that his strategic proposals would be heard by a number of leaders of the Parliamentary Assembly, who he accused of a ‘Russophobic’ attitude.