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MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. Russia does not expect the regulations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that would protect the rights of national delegations to be amended soon, Pyotr Tolstoy, Vice-Speaker of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) said on Friday. State Duma speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin, earlier said that the United Russia political party will nominate Tolstoy as head of Russia’s delegation to PACE.
"On our part, the condition for the Russian delegation’s return to PACE is changing the organization’s regulations in such a way as to rule out the possibility of stripping any nation of its voting rights. I emphasize, not only our country, but any country," the parliamentarian confirmed speaking at the beginning of the State Duma plenary session. "Of course, the implementation of these amendments is a lengthy process. So, we begin with work fully realizing that we should not expect immediate results."
Tolstoy recalled that the State Duma delegation will take part in the upcoming meeting of the PACE Standing Committee in Madrid on March 10 to discuss amendments to PACE’s regulations and steps to protect the rights of national delegations in the assembly. "Our major task now is to begin dialogue with the assembly’s senior officials, outline our stance on the key issues and try to secure the support of Standing Committee members with a view to addressing the regulations issue we are interested in, and we will insist on that," he explained. "That does not yet mean the return of Russia’s delegation to PACE sessions. That is our bid for the beginning of an honest dialogue on the rules of this international organization so that the opinions of all countries, all peoples and all lawmakers are taken into account."
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 developments 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 remained in place. In response, Russia suspended its participation in PACE activities till the end of 2015. In January 2016, Russia refrained from applying for confirmation of its rights for 2016.