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Council of Europe diplomats to discuss Ukraine events

May 06, 2014, 2:23 UTC+3 VIENNA

Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

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VIENNA, May 06 /ITAR-TASS/. The Council of Europe’s decision-making body, the Committee of Ministers, will gather on Tuesday in Vienna, the capital of Austria, whose presidency in the CE will go over to Azerbaijan in May. The meeting is expected to focus on the situation in Ukraine.

According to the Austrian Foreign Ministry, the heads and representatives of foreign policy departments from 47 countries will attend. Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who will also take part in the political debate of the session entitled “Council of Europe values and stability in Europe: current challenges”.

The topics that Austria initially planned to touch upon will go to the background due to the crisis in Ukraine, where dozens were killed a few days ago when the Trade Unions building in the southern city of Odessa was set on fire by radicals.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expects its colleagues to discuss the situation in Ukraine as well. Earlier the ministry stressed that the potential of the Council of Europe “should be used for expert and legal contribution to the holding of a deep constitutional reform in the country based on inclusive national dialogue aimed at overcoming the society’s split”.

The ministry said it believes the efforts of the International Advisory Panel, set up by the Council of Europe to investigate rights violations in Ukraine, should be aimed at that, adding that it hopes the panel will be “unbiased and not politicized” when analyzing events in Ukraine.

“The policy of restricting the freedom of media, imposing restrictions on movement between Russia and Ukraine, using armed forces against civilians, practiced by Kiev, runs counter to the fundamental norms and principles of the Council of Europe and must be immediately stopped,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Relevant CE bodies should give this practice a proper assessment,” it said.

Moscow proceeds from the fact that the Council of Europe “should call on the current de facto Kiev authorities to unconditionally implement agreements reached in Geneva on April 17 to de-escalate the tensions and to draft a new constitution that would to the right degree take into account the legal hopes and concerns of all Ukrainian regions”.

The Geneva Statement, adopted after the April 17 meeting on Ukraine that involved Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine, in particular envisions that all illegal armed formations should be disarmed in Ukraine, all administrative buildings unblocked and all protesters except for those who committed serious crimes pardoned.

Prior to the session of the Committee of Ministers, in an interview with Austrian media, CE Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said the constitutional reform should lay the foundation for a united Ukraine. He said Ukraine needs certain decentralization and added that power bodies in regions should get broader powers.

However, Jagland does not expect breakthrough solutions from the current session. He said the fact that the top diplomats of Russia and Ukraine will sit at one table is already a success.

The Council of Europe, established in 1949, comprises 47 countries with an overall population of 800 million people. Its key task is to promote human rights protection and development of democratic values.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russia’s activity in the CE “is aimed at consolidation of efforts to strengthen the uniting European agenda, search for common answers to real challenges and threats common for Europeans, including terrorism, uncontrolled migration, drug trafficking, extremism…, nationalism and neo-Nazism…, intolerance and discrimination against ethnicities, religions, cultures etc.”

Russia is one of the leading CE member states in terms of broadness of its activity and is among top five contributors to the CE budget.

Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who were propelled to power in Kiev amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern regions in March after Crimea's incorporation by Russia. Demonstrators, who are demanding referendums on the country’s federalization, have seized some government buildings.

Crimea's urge to reunify with Russia was caused by the republic's refusal to accept the new Kiev authorities. In a March 16 referendum, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia. The reunification deal with Moscow was signed March 18.

The Kiev authorities have been conducting an antiterrorism operation in eastern Ukraine, in particular, in the Donetsk Region. Russia, which does not recognize the de facto Ukrainian leaders, brought to power by the coup, has condemned the operation, apparently aimed to crack down on Ukrainian nationals supporting federalization.

In Odessa, riots started on May 2 after soccer fans from Kharkov, Right Sector far-right ultranationalist movement radicals and so-called “Maidan self-defense” representatives from Kiev organized a march along city streets.

After clashes with federalization supporters, they set ablaze the Trade Unions House, where their opponents hid, and a tent camp where activists were collecting signatures for a referendum on Ukraine’s federalization and for the status of a state language for Russian. As a result of the clashes and the fire, 46 people died and more than 200 sought medical assistance.

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