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The Estonian delegation along with the representatives of six other member states left the June 26 sitting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in protest against the reinstatement of Russia's voting rights, writes ERR News.

The Estonian, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Slovakian, and Georgian delegations left the session chamber of PACE in protest on Wednesday. After PACE decided to readmit Russia in full early the previous morning, the Russian delegation already participated in the next day’s vote on the appointment of a new secretary-general of the council.

"The unconditional restoration of the Russian delegation's voting rights without the Russian Federation honoring any of the Assembly's numerous demands runs counter to the core values of the Council of Europe and its Statute," a joint statement of the seven delegations reads.


Delegates: Decision threatens council's credibility

"This step sends a very wrong signal to the country that has resorted to armed aggression, poisoning of individuals, does not observe human rights of its citizens and does not promote, but seeks to destabilize democracies throughout Europe," the delegates added.

The delegations further see the future of the council under threat, as its current course means it loses the trust of the very people it stands to protect.

"We are returning home to consult our parliaments and governments about the joint actions in the assembly in the next sessions," the delegates said.


President Kaljulaid: Decision to reinstate Russia's voting rights "shameful"


Early on the morning of Tuesday, June 25, PACE decided to reinstate Russia's voting rights on the council. After Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, the council had suspended its voting rights, following which Russia refused to pay its annual membership contribution of €33 million to the council, tearing a hole in the institution's finances.

Of PACE's representatives, 118 voted in favor and 68 against. There were 10 abstentions. All three Estonian representatives voted against, media reported on Tuesday morning.

President Kersti Kaljulaid called the decision "shameful," stressing that there haven't been any developments since 2014 that would justify such a step. "The reason for these sanctions was a blatant violation of international law by Russia. Not one of the reasons why Russia's voting rights were suspended in 2014 has changed," the president wrote.


Tuesday decision implies substantial setback for Russian citizens as well


The council is Europe's largest human rights organization. The human rights perspective, then, was the main argument of those in favor of inviting Russia back. French secretary of state for Euro-pean affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, was quoted as saying ahead of the vote that it would be "dangerous" to leave millions of Russian citizens "without access to institutions that defend their rights."

Due to the lacking impartiality and independence of Russian courts, the European Court of Human Rights has become an important place to turn to for help for plenty of Russians.


Estonian Foreign Minister condemns return of Russia to PACE


Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu condemned changes that allow Russia to return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Tuesday.

"The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved changes to its rules of procedure that would allow for the return of the delegation of the Russian Federation after it was banned following the occupation of Crimea. Unfortunately, restoring Russia's mandate in the current circumstances and in this manner goes against the values of the Council of Europe and does not serve the interests of Europe," Reinsalu said in a statement.

The circumstances leading to the decision by PACE to limit Russia's voting rights after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 have not changed, he said, adding that Russian aggression has caused the deaths of more than 13,000 people in Ukraine.

"The delegation would reportedly include persons who have been added to the list of sanctions of the European Union. This is a clear provocation. In the past decade, as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia has attacked two other members of the Council of Europe," Reinsalu said.



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