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Russian MP slams Ukrainian top diplomat’s threats to abandon Minsk Accords as blackmail

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky was hopeful that once Ukrainian President-Elect Zelensky took office, Kiev would reconsider the approach to the situation in Donbass

MOSCOW, May 13. /TASS/. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin’s threat to abandon the Minsk Agreements aimed at resolving the Donbass conflict if the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) restores Russia’s right to vote are blatant blackmail, Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky told reporters on Monday.

"Klimkin’s threats to abandon the Minsk Agreements if PACE restores the Russian delegation’s rights is blatant blackmail. However, his statement illustrates the era of the outgoing Ukrainian president and his team. They don’t care about peace in their own country for they seek primarily to please their overseas tutors and cause as much damage to Russia as possible. Poroshenko and his team have been overtly sabotaging the implementation of the Minsk Agreements so Klimkin’s threats are nothing new," Slutsky said.

At the same time, he was hopeful that once Ukrainian President-Elect Vladimir Zelensky took office, the country’s authorities would reconsider their approach to the situation in Donbass. "I hope that the new Ukrainian authorities will pursue a different policy towards Donbass. This civil war runs completely counter to the human principles of the 21st century, while it is all happening in the center of Europe under the guise of European values," the senior Russian lawmaker emphasized.

Klimkin said earlier in Brussels that if the Council of Europe restored Russia’s right to vote in PACE, Kiev would stop abiding by the Minsk Agreements. According to the Ukrainian top diplomat, he has informed the foreign ministers of EU member states of Kiev’s stance. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry claims that although the Minsk Agreements are not directly linked to pressure on Russia within the Council of Europe, Kiev has every reason to take such a step.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said at a joint press conference with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland in Paris last week that France would like Russia to continue participating in the activities of the Council of Europe.

Russia and PACE

In April 2014, Russia’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote, over the situation in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The issue of restoring the rights of the Russian delegation was raised at PACE twice throughout 2015 but sanctions remained in place. In response, Russia suspended its participation in PACE’s activities. The country did not apply for confirmation of its rights in 2016-2018. Moscow suggested PACE’s regulations be amended to ensure that no one could strip lawmakers of their rights except their voters.

Jagland said on October 10 that Russia’s membership in the organization’s Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly might be suspended starting from June 2019 due to non-payment of monetary contributions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in response that Moscow would quit the Council of Europe if opposing member states called for expelling Russia.

In January 2019, the two houses of the Russian parliament issued statements, pointing out there were no reasons for Russia to return to PACE in 2019. In addition, the State Duma upheld the move to suspend the payment of the country’s contribution.

On April 10, PACE members adopted a resolution on the role and mission of the Assembly, which, in part, mentions the need to maintain Russia’s Council of Europe membership and calls on Moscow to form a delegation to PACE and pay membership dues. The resolution says that PACE’s sanctions against the Russian delegation following Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the country’s subsequent decision to terminate participation in the Assembly’s activities caused discord within the organization.