Ukraine calls for Russia’s expulsion from the Council of Europe

Ukraine on Monday demanded the “immediate expulsion” of Russia from the Council of Europe, which could decide to do so on Thursday, marking a historic first for this organization, which monitors human rights on almost the entire European continent.

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Following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, “we ask to take a decision on the immediate expulsion of Russia from the Council of Europe”, launched Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal, speaking by videoconference during an extraordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which sits in Strasbourg (eastern France).

The organization’s Committee of Ministers, its “executive” on which the ambassadors of its member states sit, is due to meet Thursday morning to decide what to do next.

Speaking in place of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, initially planned but held back by talks with Moscow, Denys Chmygal called on the parliamentarians of the 46 member states of the Council present to “unite (their) efforts to defend Ukraine, but also to defend all of Europe.

“It is time to stop this aggression before there is a nuclear catastrophe or all of Europe is on fire,” he warned, urging once again to “secure the skies above of Ukraine”.

His speech was greeted by a standing ovation from parliamentarians who had already observed a minute of silence in memory of the Ukrainian victims, a little earlier in the day.

The very day after the outbreak of war in Ukraine on February 24, the Council of Europe had decided to “suspend” the participation of Russian parliamentarians and diplomats in its main bodies, with the exception of the European Court of Human Rights. (ECHR), its judicial body, the last resort for some 145 million Russian citizens faced with the arbitrariness of their national jurisdictions.

Faced with the succession of calls to stop the fighting, without result, the organization, joined by Russia in 1996, plans to ask Moscow to leave it. In 1969, Greece, under the dictatorial regime of the colonels, had slammed the door just before suffering the same fate.

Russia could also do the same. Thursday, Piotr Tolstoy, head of the Russian delegation to the PACE, had launched: “Let them simmer in their own juice. Without us”.

“Russia will not participate in the transformation by NATO and the EU of the oldest European organization into a new platform hammering Western domination and narcissism”, also warned the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For now, however, Moscow has not sent any official notification of its withdrawal to the Council.

“We are drawing a line, but it is not completely drawn,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, said this weekend.

Also calling for Russia’s expulsion, MP Yevheniia Kravchuk, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE, stressed to the press that the Council of Europe would be “the first international organization to exclude Russia” if she was taking that step.

But if “the Russian Federation leaves the Council of Europe, it will also be in some way a tragedy, a tragedy for the Russian people” deprived of the protection of the ECHR, warned the Secretary General of the Council of Europe , Marija Pejcinovic Buric.

The PACE is meeting Monday and Tuesday in extraordinary session, also a first in its history. At the end of the debates on Tuesday evening, the parliamentarians are expected to adopt a text recommending that the Committee of Ministers “to invite the Russian Federation to withdraw from the Council of Europe”.

“This is the toughest measure the organization can take,” PACE President Tiny Kox from the Netherlands told a press conference, repeatedly insisting that Russia had “overstepped the Red line”.

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