The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has decided to ratify the credentials of the Russian delegation, citing the need to “foster dialogue”, but at the same time has decided to suspend its voting rights and its right to be represented in the Assembly’s leading bodies* “as a clear expression of condemnation of continuing grave violations of international law in respect of Ukraine” by Russia.
The Assembly said it would return to this issue at its April 2015 part-session and would consider re-instating these two rights “if Russia has made marked and measurable progress towards implementing the demands of the Assembly”.
In addition, the Assembly also suspended – for the duration of the Assembly’s 2015 session – the right of its Russian members to be appointed as a rapporteur, to observe elections or to represent the Assembly in other Council of Europe or external bodies.
The credentials were challenged on substantive grounds – including “a serious violation of the basic principles of the Council of Europe” – on the opening day of the session by Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EC), supported by at least thirty members of the Assembly.
In its resolution, based on a report by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), the Assembly said it: “condemns the illegal annexation of Crimea and its continuing integration into the Russian Federation”. It also condemned Russia’s role in “instigating and escalating developments in Ukraine, including with arms supplies to insurgent forces and covert military action by Russian troops inside eastern Ukraine.”
The Assembly also decided to consider setting up, pending the agreement of the parliaments concerned, a special working group with the participation of the Speakers of the Russian State Duma and the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada, or their representatives, “to contribute to the realisation of all the propositions made in the Assembly’s resolution and formulate possible action in support of the Minsk Protocols”.
The Assembly also called on the Russian authorities to release Ukrainian PACE member Nadiia Savchenko “within 24 hours and to ensure her return to Ukraine or to hand her over to a third country”.
* The Bureau of the Assembly, the Presidential Committee and the Standing Committee.