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Possible 'Ruxit' seen as disaster among Council of Europe leadership

In 2014, the Russian delegation to PACE was stripped of its key rights

BERLIN, January 23. /TASS/. Russia’s possible withdrawal from the Council of Europe would trigger a knock-on effect and would become a true disaster for Europe along with Brexit, director of Communications at the Council of Europe Daniel Holtgen told Deutchlandfunk radio on Wednesday.

Many in the Council of Europe express concerns over Brexit, he said. "Correct, but this is not the main topic," said Holtgen, Spokesperson for the CE Secretary General, adding that Russia’s possible exit, dubbed Ruxit, is discussed there at the moment.

"As much as Brexit means a dilemma for the Council of Europe, so Ruxit would be a tremendous setback in the issue of ensuring human rights," he said. "Brexit and Ruxit in one and the same year would be indeed a disaster for Europe," he stressed.

He opined that in Russia’s case, the Council of Europe "should fear a kind of a knock-on effect. "There are countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan which also have deputies who openly speak in favor of the withdrawal," he explained.

Conflict around PACE

In April 2014, the Russian delegation to PACE was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote and take part in the assembly’s governing bodies, following the developments in Ukraine and Crimea. The issue of restoring the Russian delegation’s rights was raised at PACE twice in 2015, but instead the sanctions were only tightened. Russia has been deprived of the right to vote and cannot take part in the assembly’s governing bodies and election monitoring missions.

On October 10, 2018 Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland told the PACE autumn session that the organization's Committee of Ministers will have to expel Russia from the Council of Europe if the country does not make any monetary contributions. In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia would leave the Council of Europe on its own volition if its opponents in this organization insist on Moscow’s expulsion.

On December 10, the PACE Rules Committee came out against depriving national delegations of their right to take part in the elections of the organization’s secretary general and judges to the European Court of Human Rights. However, Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov stated that Moscow was not satisfied with the partial restoration of its delegations’ rights in PACE and expected the delegation’s "full and unconditional restoration of all rights" and "the development of such rules of procedure that would prevent any such actions on the part of the assembly’s majority in the future."

During its Thursday’s session, the State Duma unanimously adopted a draft statement, which suggests not sending the Russian delegation to the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2019, and sticking to the decision to freeze Russia’s membership fees to the Council of Europe’s coffers. The same statement came on Wednesday from the Federation Council.