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Russia won’t attend PACE January session

No amendments have been introduced on protecting national delegations from discrimination, the deputy speaker says

MOSCOW, January 11. /TASS/.  Russia won’t send its delegation to the January session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as no amendments have been introduced on protecting national delegations from discrimination, Deputy State Duma Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy told TASS on Thursday.

"Russia’s delegation won’t be represented in PACE in January as the significant condition of our work there, namely the guarantees of non-discrimination of national delegations’ rights, has not been introduced in this organization’s regulations," said Tolstoy, who is in charge of international cooperation at the lower house of parliament.

"That’s why Russia’s decision to abstain from the work in PACE in the plenary format remains in force until the regulations are changed," he said. "But we have been holding and will further hold consultations with PACE’s members on this issue with the goal of convincing our colleagues that any discrimination of national delegations first and foremost harms the organization itself," Tolstoy stressed.

In comments on possibly inviting to Moscow members of PACE’s Presidential Committee after the January session to discuss further cooperation between Russia and the Council of Europe, Tolstoy said this depends on the outcome of consultations after the January session. Earlier, Leonid Slutsky, who chairs of the State Duma International Affairs Committee, spoke about the possibility of sending this invitation.

Russia and representatives of the Strasbourg-based Assembly are constantly holding dialogue, Tolstoy confirmed. However, "it’s wrong to meet just for the sake of a meeting," he noted.

"We are still trying to convince leaders of political groups, staff members of PACE’s Secretariat and others that significant changes in the organization’s work are needed," Tolstoy said, noting that many of them agree with this.

Russia sees efforts in this direction of Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland and also a report by leader of the Socialist Group in PACE Michele Nicoletti, who calls to harmonize the membership of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, he said.

"Let’s see the particular outcome, this will be clear only after the January session is held," Tolstoy said.

Russia and PACE

In April 2014, Russia’s delegation to PACE was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote and take part in the assembly’s governing bodies, 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 the sanctions are still in place. In response, Russia suspended its participation in the PACE. Russia refrained from applying for confirmation of its rights for 2016.

In late June 2017, Moscow suspended the payment of its 2017 contribution to the Council of Europe amounting to 11 mln euros until the Russian delegation’s rights were fully restored. Russia also suggested amending the assembly’s regulation introducing a provision that no one has any right to strip lawmakers of their powers, except for their voters.