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MOSCOW, April 04. /ITAR-TASS/. The issue of possible sanctions by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe against Russia may be submitted to PACE consideration on April 10, the head of Russia’s delegation to PACE, chairman of the Russian lower house’s international affairs committee, Aleksei Pushkov, said Friday.
Pushkov confirmed to journalists that there are two initiatives, one to strip the Russian delegation of its powers in the Assembly, proposed by Britain’s Robert Walter, and the other to strip Russia of its vote right submitted by Denmark’s Michael Aastrup Jensen.
“If Walter’s initiative is put to vote, and this is to become finally clear on Tuesday, then the Russian Federation reserves the right to preemptively give up its powers by the year end and notify PACE of it. In this case, voting on the powers will be impossible because the delegation gives them up voluntarily,” Pushkov explained.
At the same time, he said, “if there are milder sanctions - stripping Russia of the right to vote or to speak at plenary sessions - then the Russian delegation will react without giving up its powers”.
Now, the Russian delegation head said, PACE is discussing how to react to Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
“There are both supporters of radical measures and their opponents who think exclusion of Russia from PACE will block dialogue,” Pushkov said.
“Russia’s withdrawal from PACE would mean that the Russian angle in PACE’s activity will be absent, which will lead to the weakening of the organization and cause its weight and authority to decrease,” he said.
Pushkov said Russia will send a full-format delegation to the forthcoming PACE session. In particular, he pointed out that the delegation will include State Duma [lower house] member Leonid Slutsky, whose name features on the European Union’s list of Russian officials subject to sanctions.
“All members of the international parliamentary organizations, including Russian legislators, enjoy immunity,” he said. “They have the right to attend activities, in this particular case, the PACE session, and to stay in the EU territory during the session,” Pushkov explained.
The PACE session in Strasbourg is due on April 7-11.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, held a referendum March 16 in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The reunification deals with Moscow were signed March 18.
The developments followed a coup in Ukraine in February that occurred after months of anti-government protests, which often turned violent. President Viktor Yanukovych had to leave Ukraine citing security concerns. Crimea’s authorities do not recognize the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian leadership in Kiev. Nor do Russia’s authorities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the Crimean referendum was in full conformity with the international law and the UN Charter, and also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.
However, Ukraine’s new authorities and the West have denounced the Crimean plebiscite claiming it was illegal, and have refused to recognize Crimea part of Russia.
Western countries even moved further, imposing sanctions on some Russian officials, but Moscow responded tit for tat. The West has threatened Russia with new economic sanctions unless Moscow changes its foreign policy.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when it was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev.