MOSCOW, April 8. /TASS/. Head of the State Duma’s international affairs committee Alexey Pushkov said he considers practically improbable the Russian delegation might return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) before 2017.
"Right now we do not participate in PACE work and we shall return there only as all sanctions are lifted off the Russian delegation," he said. "Anyway, in 2016 our participation in PACE is practically improbable; we may be speaking here only about 2017."
Pushkov earlier admitted chances Russia may return to PACE in 2016, though said that would be possible only after the upcoming elections to the State Duma (lower house of the parliament), due in September 2016. He said then "Russia may again apply (for authorities at PACE), though it would depend on terms of the September-October session, on when the newly elected State Duma has its first session after the September elections." He said, PACE’s "position is national delegations should receive authorities at the first part of the session in 2016, which is at the session in January." Thus, "at the following sessions countries cannot request authorities, except for the cases where elections are organized within a year and new delegations are formed," he said.
In 2014 the parliamentary arm of the 47-nation Council of Europe, promoting democracy and human rights across the continent, stripped Russia of voting rights following events in Ukraine. It suspended both Russia's right to sit on its governing bodies and Russian participation in election observer missions.
Earlier, the legislator told a news conference "the absence of the Russian delegation in PACE means not only our physical absence from Strasbourg during sessions and absence in the meeting room."
"All forms of cooperation that existed between Russia and PACE - preparation of reports by PACE on the Russian territory, visits by representatives and members of monitoring missions, our contacts with PACE’s official representatives - everything is cancelled," he noted.
Russian parliamentary delegates left the April session before its official completion as a gesture of protest and refused to take part in future PACE activities, staying away from the assembly's summer and autumn sessions. At the January session in 2015, PACE extended its sanctions against Russia’s delegation until April. In response, Moscow severed contact with the group for another year. The Russian delegation repeatedly stated that it will return to PACE only if all sanctions from Russia are removed.