MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. Russia’s delegation was stripped of the right to vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) last April not because of Crimea - they only needed to “invent an excuse,” speaker of the State Duma lower house of parliament Sergey Naryshkin said on Thursday.
“The point, of course, is not only in the Republic of Crimea,” Naryshkin said in an interview to the Kommersant daily, answering whether Russia’s deprivation of PACE vote was a response to Crimea's reunification with Russia.
The State Duma speaker said that prior to that Chechnya was this excuse when Russia was accused of the Chechen developments that took place the 1990s. Other excuses emerged after constitutional order was restored in the North Caucasian republic.
“Russia was accused of starting a war in South Ossetia, although the world has seen the footage of heavy artillery night shelling attacks on civilians in Tskhinval on the order of [Georgian President] Saakashvili. Then there were many other far-fetched pretexts: the case of Pussy Riot [girls’ punk band], anti-gay propaganda law. Therefore, the point is certainly not Crimea, which is now an integral part of Russia forever,” said Naryshkin.
According to him, the reunification of Russia with Crimea was “just another excuse.”
At its April 2014 session PACE stripped the Russian delegation of the right to vote until January 2015 and excluded it from all Assembly’s management bodies for Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Russian lawmakers then walked out of the session in protest and refused from further participation in the PACE work. Since then the Russian delegation has not attended the Assembly’s summer and autumn sessions in Strasbourg.
In mid-November 2014 Naryshkin told the media that the Russian delegation was ready to return to the full-format participation in PACE’s work in 2015, adding that in his opinion PACE has huge potential to help in overcoming the current crisis of political trust in Europe. He also urged his foreign colleagues to renew the Assembly’s agenda, removing all unimportant questions, and adding those that are of primary importance.
The conflict between Russia and PACE reached its peak in April last year as the European body approved an anti-Russian resolution over the political crisis in Ukraine, depriving Moscow’s delegation of the right to vote, and banning it from participation in ruling bodies and monitoring missions till the end of the year.
In January 2015, the powers of all delegations at PACE are to be formally reapproved. On December 18, 2014 the Duma Council made a decision to include in Russia’s PACE delegation Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin and his deputy Sergey Zhelezhnyak. This means that in accordance with the procedural rules, Naryshkin as the delegation’s permanent member can attend the PACE January session that will raise the issue of the return of Assembly powers to Russia.
Naryshkin said on Monday that he is considering “an optimistic scenario of PACE action [towards Russia’s delegation].” “But if other opinion prevails, as for myself, I doubt the expediency of continuation of our work at PACE - at least during 2015,” he said.