“I believe the probability of Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe is close to zero for two reasons: first, Russia has been its members since 1996; second, it has one of the five leading states in the Council of Europe both by the size of its membership fee and its delegation,” Pushkov told the III International Parliamentary Forum in Moscow on Thursday.
“Besides, it would be wrong to leave the European floor exclusively to other players like Georgia or the Baltic States that are extremely anti-Russian,” Pushkov went on to say.
“We want to influence the continent’s development in the 21st century. It will be wrong to self-isolate ourselves from the Council of Europe,” the Russian deputy said in conclusion.
The April session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) deprived the Russian delegation of the right to vote at the Assembly sessions. Russia was removed from the PACE leading posts and banned from participation in PACE observation missions. After that, the Russian delegation suspended its work at the PACE until year’s end.
“I hope we will be able to prepare conditions for Russia’s mandate to be resumed in 2015 without any sanctions,” Pushkov said.
He noted that the mandates of all parliamentary delegations would be renewed in January 2015 “regardless of whether sanctions were applied or not”. “If the PACE understands that the recommencement of sanctions will not allow Russia to take part in its work for another year and if the crisis over Ukraine subsides, we will resume full-scale work,” the MP said.
“Unfortunately, we have not seen any major progress or official statements to this effect so far,” he added.
Pushkov said the Russian delegation would most likely not attend PACE sessions until the end of 2014.
“With sanctions against us still in force, we refuse to take part in the PACE work. Since the decision on the sanctions will be effective until the end of the year, the Russian delegation is unlikely to take part in the work of the PACE until the sanctions are lifted,” he said.
In his opinion, the PACE “has betrayed its principles”.
At a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) opening on Friday, June 27, “Russia will suggest creating an international parliamentary contact group for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis”, Pushkov said.
He believes that more and more PACE members are beginning to understand that the issue of Ukraine cannot be discussed without Russia. “The only thing we can expect is that the PACE will start assessing the situation in Ukraine more soberly, be less biased about Russia’s foreign policy and, in the absence of the Russian delegation, realizes that the PACE is losing a considerable part of its authority without Russia,” the MP said.
“[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko will speak there today. The Russian delegation is absent. But everyone understands that Russia is an important element of this equation the current crisis over Ukraine. If you take Russia out of this equation, you can’t resolve the Ukrainian problem. Both Washington and Brussels understand this. But I think the PACE has not fully understood this yet,” Pushkov said.
“The absence of Russia during the discussion of the Ukrainian crisis, which is a result of the wrong decisions made by the Parliamentary Assembly, makes the resolution of the crisis practically impossible. The discussion of this issue in the PACE will not be complete until Russia returns,” he said.
Pushkov said he expected “more and more PACE members to understand this with time”.
On April 10, the PACE passed a resolution that will keep the Russian delegation silent and excluded it from all PACE governing bodies until the end of the year for the reunification with Crimea. The resolution was passed by a 145-21 vote with 22 abstentions. In reply, the Russian delegation walked out of the session room.
Pushkov stressed that the most extremist attitudes had not prevailed in the PACE. “The proposal to evict Russia from PACE did not prevail in the final run, as only 55 delegates voted for it and this proves the majority of them have retained common sense,” Pushkov said.
However the decision to limit all rights of the Russian delegation, including its participation in the Bureau, the right to vote and participate in monitoring missions is “the crudest possible encroachment on our delegation’s rights”, he said. “We believe this fact alone furnishes us with enough grounds for considering the prospects for further participation in PACE activities,” he said.
“We will not participate in the further work of this session and will reserve the right consider the question of further participation of Russia in the PACE,” Pushkov said.
Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Ties with Compatriots Leonid Slutsky, who is deputy head of the Russian delegation to the PACE, believes that the PACE decisions to restrict the Russian parliamentarians’ powers “look more like those of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO but not of the Assembly which is called upon to bring together the East the West and build Europe free of dividing lines”.
“This is an unspeakable show of double standards, a pathologically biased approach. The redline, up to which we considered it possible to continue working in the PACE, was crossed by passing an amendment that deprived us of the right to participate in the Assembly’s governing bodies and monitoring missions,” he said.
“We want to be here but we cannot agree with the infringement of the rights and authority of great Russia,” Slutsky stressed.
Pushkov said Russia “is ready to be in the PACE if our colleagues are prepared to conduct a dialogue” but “if our colleagues are prepared only to yell, make noise and condemn, we will not hold on to the PACE and we made this clear”.
The PACE passed a resolution on Ukraine which laid all the blame for the crisis in that country on Russia.
The Russian delegation voiced strong protest against the resolution. “This is an appalling document, which calls white black and black white. It boils down to defaming Russia and its actions in Crimea, while supporting utterly unacceptable fantasies,” Slutsky said.
However, State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin said Russia had no intention to quit its membership in the PACE and regarded the Council of Europe and the PACE as “important forums for discussion”.
Naryshkin said Russia would watch the PACE activities closely.
He said Russia was disappointed by the PACE decision to silence its delegation until the end of the year but would continue dialogue with this European organization and has no intention to secede from it.
Having adopted the sanctions against Russia, the PACE “has isolated itself from dialogue” the speaker said and called it “a cowardly position” indicating that European parliamentarians “are afraid of hearing our arguments”. However, Russia “is ready for dialogue, is seeking it and is not afraid of defending its point of view”, he said.
Naryshkin recalled the principles set out in the PACE Charter: Europe free of dividing lines. “We would like this organization to do what it is intended do,” he added.