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MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy will head the country’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA). He was elected to head the delegation at a meeting of the delegation members coming from the State Duma and the Federation Council (upper house of parliament).
"A decision has been made that I will head the delegation as the State Duma Deputy Speaker," Tolstoy told reporters. He confirmed that the Russian delegation would take part in the winter session of the OSCE PA scheduled to be held in Austria’s capital of Vienna in late February.
"The State Duma Speaker as well as the country’s leadership believes that we should maintain dialogue with our Western counterparts on all possible platforms," the politician added. "This is why we will build a meaningful dialogue to make our voice heard."
In late November, 2016, the State Duma Council approved its delegation to the OSCE PA based on quota principle. Seven representatives of the United Russia party (Nikolai Kovalyov, Gennady Onishchenko, Nikolai Brykin, Pyotr Tolstoy, Artyom Turov, Pavel Fedyayev and Alexander Fokin) have made it into the delegation while other State Duma factions will be represented by one of their members (Alexei Korniyenko from the Communist Party, Leonid Slutsky from the Liberal Democratic Party and Nikolai Ryzhak from A Just Russia party).
The situation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that forced Russia to stop its participation in the activities of PACE may change soon, Tolstoy said. He expressed hope that PACE would introduce amendments to its regulations in order to protect the delegations so that they would not be deprived of their rights.
"We have been keeping an eye on the PACE activities but there is nothing to comment on," Tolstoy told reporters when asked whether he had been following the current PACE session in Strasbourg scheduled to be completed on Friday.
"I think PACE is not capable of performing full-fledged activities without Russia. Let us hope that the situation will change soon," he added.
According to the Russian lawmaker, the issue of the Russian delegation to the PACE was not discussed on Friday. "It is not a pressing issue yet, the PACE should first change its regulations, then we will address the matter," Tolstoy said.
In April 2014, the Russian delegation to PACE was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote and take part in the assembly’s governing bodies, over the situation in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The issue of restoring the rights of the Russian delegation was raised at PACE twice throughout 2015 but the sanctions are still in place. In response, Russia suspended its participation in the PACE.
In January 2016, Russia refrained from applying for confirmation of its rights for 2016.
The first 2017 PACE session is taking place in Strasbourg from January 23, Russia has not been participating.