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STRASBOURG, October 1 (Itar-Tass) — Voting on the summary report on Russia and the election of a new Russian judge to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will be the central themes of the agenda of the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
A major political scandal broke put on the eve of the first PACE meeting during this political season. Speaker of the State Duma lower house of Russia’s parliament Sergei Naryshkin at the last minute made a decision not to go to Strasbourg. It was planned that on Monday, October 1, he would speak to the deputies of the Assembly and answer their questions, which mainly related to the human rights situation in Russia. An official of the organisation’s staff confirmed to Itar-Tass that the PACE parliamentarians were interested in the course of investigation of the death of auditor of the British Hermitage Capital Management Foundation Sergei Magnitsky in custody, as well as the objectivity of the sentence handed down on members of the Pussy Riot punk band and on former head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Last week, Sergei Naryshkin said he was preparing “to speak about big problems in the development of parliamentarianism in Europe, about forming a frontier-free Europe. But as the session opening was nearing we felt that my big strategic proposals were unlikely to be heard by a number of Parliamentary Assembly leaders and some Russophobic delegations.”
Chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs Alexei Pushkov specified that the visit of the State Duma speaker to Strasbourg was cancelled also because of the contents of the PACE summary report on Russia, voting on which is scheduled for October 2. Speaking about the draft resolution, the Russian delegation head said that “regarding its certain provisions, it is unacceptable, and its final adoption may lead to a deterioration of relations between Moscow and Strasbourg.” He referred, in particular, to the Assembly’s calls for changing the RF national legislation, as well as for substantial correction of Moscow’s foreign policy course. The European Parliament members also insist on a revision “in accordance with democratic standards,” of the sentence to the Pussy Riot punk band members who have been sentenced to two years in prison for their act of hooliganism in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. “The conviction of Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in December 2010, to six more years of imprisonment and the conviction of the members of the punk band Pussy Riot in August 2012 were largely perceived as a sign that the judiciary in Russia remains subject to political pressure and the influence of the executive,” says the final version of the PACE resolution. In addition, the monitoring report includes the findings of international observers on the results of the parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia and expert assessments of Russia’s legislation, which are expressly critical.
Another important item on the PACE session agenda will be the election of a new judge from Russia to the European Court of Human Rights. The office term of the current judge from Russia Anatoly Kovler expires on November 1, this year. Three candidates are vying for this post: Judge of the RF Supreme Court for criminal cases Olga Vedernikova, Judge of the Supreme Arbitration Court Dmitry Dedov and Associate Professor of the Commercial Law Department at St. Petersburg State University Andrei Bushev.
Among other issues to be discussed in Strasbourg are - the possible holding an urgent debate on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, as well as the discussion “on determining the status of political prisoner.” It is not ruled out that the MEPs during the debate will express their views on the so-called “Safarov case” that has significantly strained relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.