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Russian senate speaker says no plans to withdraw from Council of Europe

Valentina Matviyenko pointed out that the current crisis situation in the PACE needed to be resolved

MOSCOW, December 11. /TASS/. Russia cannot exist and develop outside of Europe so the withdrawal from the Council of Europe is out of the question, Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said in an interview with Russia’s RBC media outlet on Monday.

"As for Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe, it is not on the agenda," she said. "We cannot imagine our future, our existence and development without Europe, as well as Europe cannot imagine itself without Russia, I believe," the Russian senate speaker added.

When speaking about interaction with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Matviyenko pointed out that the current crisis situation needed to be resolved.

"Not only we understand it but the Council of Europe’s authorities do too," she said. "The largest country in Europe has been deprived of the right to vote under the pressure of the Russia-hating minority, which is the loudest in the PACE. This cannot continue, a solution to the situation should be found," Matviyenko noted.

According to her, work is underway to create conditions to ensure that all the 47 member states of the Council of Europe have equal rights and obligations. "We still insist that changes are introduced in the PACE regulations to prevent the very possibility of discrimination against any national delegation… We will not apply for the return of our PACE membership until conditions are created for that," the Russian senate speaker stressed.

She noted that although the rights of the Russian delegation to the PACE had not been restored yet, Moscow would continue to implement the decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

"We cannot but implement them. Russia is a responsible member of the global community. We assumed certain obligations, ratified the European Convention on Human and other documents of the Council of Europe and we will definitely abide by them. But the crisis situation in the PACE should be resolved," Matviyenko said.

Russia and PACE

In April 2014, Russia’s delegation to the PACE was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote and take part in the activities of the assembly’s governing bodies, over the situation in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The possibility of restoring the rights of the Russian delegation was discussed at the PACE twice throughout 2015 but the sanctions are still in place. In response, Russia suspended its participation in the PACE. In 2016 and 2017, Moscow refrained from applying for confirmation of its rights.

In late June 2017, Moscow suspended the payment of its contribution to the Council of Europe until the Russian delegation’s rights were fully restored. At the same time, Russia called for adding a provision to the PACE regulations stipulating that only voters could be eligible for depriving members of national delegations of their rights.