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PACE committee in Moscow to discuss Ukraine crisis, powers of Russian delegation

November 13, 2014, 9:53 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The session will be held in Moscow for the first time in almost 20 years of relations between Russia and the Council of Europe

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Alexey Pushkov, head of the Russian delegation to PACE

Alexey Pushkov, head of the Russian delegation to PACE

© ITAR-TASS/Mitya Aleshkovsky

MOSCOW, November 13. /TASS/. The Presidential Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will hold a session in Moscow on Thursday, November 13, to discuss powers of the Russian delegation to PACE and ways to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

PACE President Anne Brasseur and leaders of the assembly’s political groups arrived in the Russian capital on Wednesday at the invitation of Sergey Naryshkin, the speaker of Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament. Negotiations between members of the Russian delegation and members of the presidential committee have been scheduled. Brasseur will also hold a separate bilateral meeting with Naryshkin.

The meetings will be “a continuation of ongoing dialogue, and follows on from similar meetings with Naryshkin in Paris in early September”, the PACE press service told TASS.

Alexey Pushkov, head of the Russian delegation to PACE and chairman of the State Duma's foreign affairs committee chief, said that under discussion will be such critical issues as “the Ukrainian crisis, the need for response to the current situation in Ukraine with human rights, humanitarian problems and refugees, as well as Russia’s participation in PACE work”.

Pushkov recalled that dialogue with PACE was suspended in April, when the assembly decided to strip the Russian delegation of voting rights until January 2015, and to suspend its right to be represented in the assembly’s leading bodies and to participate in election-observation missions.

Members of the Russian parliament left the session before its official completion as a gesture of protest then and refused to take part in PACE’s activities in the future, ignoring the summer and autumn sessions of the assembly.

“A vacuum in the relationship which emerged after that has led to the idea that it will be reasonable to hold such meetings between the State Duma and PACE because Russia remains a member of the organization and our non-participation is temporary since the sanctions are valid only until the end of this year,” Pushkov said, noting that participants in the meetings were not expected to make any far-reaching decisions.

“PACE decisions are made by relevant committees and during a plenary session. The presidential committee is the assembly’s supreme advisory body and it can only recommend other PACE organs, for example, to consider this or that issue,” Pushkov said.

“But the very fact that PACE leaders already for the second time in six months hold a meeting with the chairman of the State Duma and the Russian delegation indicates that we maintain certain dialogue and keep contacts, and that both sides are interested in Russia returning to full participation in PACE work,” he added.

Leonid Slutsky, deputy head of the Russian delegation to PACE and chairman of the State Duma's committee on Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, noted that this was the first time in almost 20 years of relations between Russia and the Council of Europe that the assembly would hold a session in Moscow.

“That’s a momentous event and the moment of truth in the sphere of cooperation between Moscow and Strasbourg,” Slutsky said, adding the sides would discuss, in the first place, opportunities for dialogue in the run-up to the January session of the assembly where the problem of affirmation of the Russian delegation’s powers would be examined.

“We hope we’ll get the full scope of these powers back,” Slutsky said. “Only in this case our delegation will return to Strasbourg.”

PACE is due to do a formal reaffirmation of all the powers of the delegation in January 2015 but observers in Strasbourg say some European deputies will most likely speak out against it.

In this case, the January session will begin with a special debate and voting on the Russian dossier and all the powers of the delegation will be called into question then.

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