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PACE Monitoring Committee backs amendment to strip Russia of right to vote in 2015

January 28, 2015, 22:32 UTC+3 STRASBOURG
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STRASBOURG, January 28. /TASS/. The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has supported an amendment on stripping the Russian Federation’s delegation of the right of vote and its exclusion from the PACE governing bodies in 2015, deputy head of the Russian delegation Leonid Slutsky said Wednesday.

"This amendment on the Russian delegation being stripped again of its right to vote and take part in governing bodies of the Assembly - the Bureau, the Presidential and Standing committees - was passed by 35 votes for, 34 against," Slutsky, who is the Committee’s member from Russia, said.

He said the decision was an unpleasant surprise, adding that Russia’s delegation still has a chance to solve the situation and achieve the return of powers in PACE at the assembly’s session, as PACE Monitoring Committee Chairman Stefan Shennah (representative of Austria) will be against it.

Slutsky said Shennah "recognized the adopted amendment as destructive and one destroying the entire architecture of the report, which in his wording only implied certain insignificant sanctions against the Russian delegation."

At the same time, the Russian lawmaker again confirmed Russia’s position that should PACE deprive Russia of the right to vote, the Russian delegation will leave Strasbourg and freeze all its relations with the Assembly by the end of 2015.

PACE is currently discussing the issue of restoring the Russian delegation’s powers. A resolution initially drafted by Committee Chairman Shennah admits that it is necessary to maintain constructive dialogue of PACE with Russia, and in order to promote it suggests ratifying the powers of the Russian delegation and returning the country the right of vote.

But the suggestion is that a number of sanctions be extended throughout 2015. They include a ban on participation in electoral missions of PACE, on appointment of rapporteurs from among members of the Russian delegation, as well as on presentation of Assembly bodies.

"These are nominal and insensitive sanctions. The return of the delegation’s vote is the key thing for us," Slutsky said earlier.

Nonetheless, some 30 amendments were presented for the draft resolution, many of which had been forwarded by Ukrainian lawmakers. The Ukrainian deputies and parliamentarians from some other countries insist on non-ratification or even annulment of all powers of the Russian delegation.

During the April 2014 session, PACE deprived the Russian Federation’s delegation until January 2015 of the right to vote and excluded it from all governing bodies of PACE for incorporation of Crimea. Russian deputies and senators then left the session ahead of schedule in protest and refused to further participate in PACE’s work.

The delegation missed the summer and fall sessions. In January 2015, the powers of all delegations in PACE should be formally reaffirmed.

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18, 2014.

Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Crimea had joined the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it reunified with Russia after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.

According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people; Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people.

Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems is actively underway now that Crimea has acceded to the Russian Federation.

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