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MOSCOW, January 12. /TASS/. Russian delegation will return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after the EU begins to drop off the anti-Russian sanctions, Russian senator Alexei Pushkov, who stood at the head of the delegation to PACE for five years in the past, told TASS on Thursday.
Although PACE keeps declaring its high-flown principles, "it still mostly is a second-tier organization" as the delegates there act out the positions of the governments of their respective countries or, in other words, "predominantly the positions of EU's top leaders or the candidates for accession," Dr. Pushkov said.
"When Brussels takes a decision to divert away from the anti-Russian sanctions, notable changes will start unfolding in PACE then and until that moment the assembly will look like an anti-Russian costume party where the aggressive Russophobic minority represented by seven or eight national delegations sets the tune and the majority doesn't have the guts to oppose them," he said.
"In this light it makes sense to wait until the EU's logical evolution and shifts in the policy of sanctions targeting Russia," Dr. Pushkov said. "Still the EU won't be moving away from its anti-Russian positions for the time being and PACE will keep up its role of a mouthpiece of die-hard Russophobic forces."
"I think the EU will begin to wrap up its policy of sanctions against Russia by the end of 2017," he said. "I can foresee the beginning of quality changes in the atmosphere at PACE by the year-end in what concerns Russia's engagement in its activities."
Earlier on Thursday, Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of foreign policy committee in the lower house of Russian parliament told a group of the assembly delegates led by its President, Pedro Agramunt, Russia would continue close cooperation with PACE in the future but would not take part in its plenary sessions or committee meetings in 2017.
The Russian delegation was deprived of fundamental powers at the assembly in April 2014 in the wake of turbulent events in Ukraine and Crimea's reunification wih Russia. The assembly discussed a possible revoking of the sanctions on two occasions in 2015 but kept them in effect eventuallyprolonged.
Russia does not have the right to vote or to take part in the operations of PACE's governing and monitoring missions dispatched anyplace inside the EU.
In response, Moscow suspended its involvement in PACE's activities through to the end of 2015.
In January 2016, the Russian delegation refused to apply for a confirmation of its powers for last year.