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11 Dec, 2017 12:02

Top Russian senator rules out leaving Council of Europe

Top Russian senator rules out leaving Council of Europe

The speaker of Russia’s upper house has told reporters that there are no plans to quit the Council of Europe, but added that the Russian delegation would not resume its work in the body’s parliamentary assembly until its rights are restored.

As far as the issue of Russia leaving the Council of Europe is concerned – currently it is not on the agenda,” Senator Valentina Matviyenko said in an interview with RBC. “We cannot think of our future, existence and development without Europe and I think Europe thinks the same about Russia,” she added.

Matviyenko reiterated the Russian position concerning participation in the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), however, saying that the country’s delegation would not return to this body unless certain conditions are created for it. The senator refused to say when she expected the Russia-PACE conflict to be resolved, but noted that the process was currently heading in the right direction.

The decisions of the assembly could not be considered legitimate in the absence of Russia’s full pledged participation, Matviyenko said. She reminded reporters that Russia has insisted on changing the Council of Europe’s charter in a way that would prevent national delegations from being deprived of voting rights in future.

The conflict between Russia and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe started in 2014, after PACE stripped the Russian delegation of its voting rights and banned it from participating in ruling bodies or monitoring missions over Russia’s alleged role in the political crisis in Ukraine. The sanctions remained in place during 2015 and 2016.

In response, the Russian delegation stopped participating in PACE work, and the Russian parliament passed a resolution stating that nations which have repeatedly violated international law and caused thousands of casualties have no moral right to judge Russia or impose sanctions on it.

In addition, in mid-2017 the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement informing the secretary general of the Council of Europe that the annual payment to the organization – which roughly corresponds to Russia’s contribution to the PACE budget of around €11 million ($13 million) – would be suspended until the Moscow’s delegation’s rights are fully restored. In September, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy (United Russia) told reporters that Moscow would not unfreeze the payments unless PACE adopts a regulation that would rule out discrimination against national delegations.