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MOSCOW, February 10. /TASS/. Russia’s delegation is likely to return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in the second half of this year, a senior Russian lawmaker, Leonid Slutsky, has said.
"Maybe someone sees utopia in my words, but we consider that this is real that in the second half of this year the assembly will be ready for the return of our delegation already in a full format," said Slutsky, the deputy head of Russia’s delegation at PACE and the chairman of the Committee for CIS Affairs at the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.
Slutsky spoke at the meeting of the Open Tribune discussion club devoted to the 20th anniversary of Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe. The lawmaker noted that Russia has "close and constructive contacts" with dozens of parliamentarians representing all the five political groups at PACE.
This year Russia should try to "overcome the Russophobe atmosphere at PACE and ensure that sanctions against Russia’s delegation are lifted," he said, adding: "Otherwise we will not come back."
He also said Russia’s membership at the Council of Europe should be preserved. "It is very necessary to keep our historic and civilizational ties with Europe and we should assess the situation objectively and make the right steps."
Last month, Russian State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin said the Russian delegation will not take part in PACE’s winter session in Strasbourg on January 25-29, 2016.
Naryshkin and Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said that the Russian parliament at the moment regarded it impossible to ask PACE to approve the powers of Russia’s delegation at the session in January 2016. The message said Russia’s Federal Assembly was prepared to resume its activities at PACE on the condition the rights of national delegations were observed.
Anne Brasseur, who was PACE president at that time, said in accordance with Article 26 of the Council of Europe’s Charter and Article 6 of the PACE rules of procedure the Russian delegation would be unable to participate in the Assembly’s activities throughout 2016 or at least until the next parliamentary elections in Russia.
Russia’s delegation at PACE was deprived of the right to vote and take part in the PACE charter bodies and monitoring activities in April 2014 following Crimea’s reunification with Russia. In June 2015, a PACE session extended the Russian delegation’s mandate but did not lift the anti-Russian sanctions. The Russian delegation has been skipping PACE sessions in protest against the sanctions.