ST PETERSBURG, May 20. /TASS/. Russia will not return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) until January 2017, Chairman of Russian State Duma’s foreign affairs committee Alexey Pushkov told reporters on Thursday.
"Until January (2017) we will evidently not even appear there," said Pushkov, who heads the Russian delegation at PACE.
At the same time, the Russian lawmaker said that prevailing positions at PACE on the removal of anti-Russian sanctions would influence whether the delegation would opt for attending the PACE session or not.
"We believe it wrong to be present at the organization where sentiments in favor of sanctions will dominate. We are taking our time as it works for us," he said, adding that "improvements might be noticed" since new PACE President Pedro Agramunt was elected.
"As a politician, he is more inclined to keep in touch than the previous president," Pushkov went on to say. "In contrast to Anne Brasseur who offered a dialog amid conditions of discrimination, Agramunt offers a dialog with the goal to get Russia back to full-fledged work at the Parliamentary Assembly. A definite shift has occurred… But more significant shifts should be made."
"We feel it senseless to take part in PACE work until the sanctions are lifted," Pushkov said in conclusion.
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 and Crimea’s access into Russia. It suspended both Russia's right to sit on its governing bodies and Russian participation in election observer missions. Later on, PACE voted twice on a possibility of restoring the Russian delegation’s powers but the restrictions remain in force.
Owing to these restrictions, the Russian delegation suspended its participation in the PACE work until late 2015. The leadership of the Russian delegation has repeatedly said it would return to PACE only if all the sanctions were lifted. Russian parliamentary delegates left the April session in 2014 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.