Speaking against the prolongation of the denial of voting rights to Russia, Dutch Senator Tiny Kox, president of the Unified European Left Group (UEL) in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said, ‘The renewed suspension of Russia’s voting rights, and the consequent breaking by Russia of remaining relations with the parliaments of forty-six other European states, has brought a Cold War closer. I sorely regret the fact that Europe’s biggest platform for parliamentary diplomacy has allowed itself to be dragged along in the call for stiffer sanctions. These simply make relations with Russia more wretched and a solution to the civil war in Ukraine even more difficult. Parliamentarians, who go along with this, bear a heavy responsibility. I’m pleased that in the name of the Left Group in the Assembly I have been able to oppose this unnecessary and dangerous performance.’
‘Under the extremely aggressive leadership of conservative British and Baltic members, in the end a majority of the Assembly agreed to the further suspension of the Russian delegation’s voting rights. Earlier in the week four of the five group presidents had announced that they were opposed to this. They got behind a compromise resolution. This didn’t lie about the situation but would have been accepted in the end by the Russian delegation. Its adoption would have facilitated the sending of fresh investigatory missions from the Assembly to Russia, the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Also it might bring the prospect of the freeing of prisoners, amongst whom are a Ukrainian MP who’s been locked up in Russia. So there were opportunities to de-escalate. That’s why the Russian parliament had sent its highest-powered delegation possible, under the leadership of the president of the Duma.’
Unfortunately, during the week the European Christian Democrats changed their position, as Kox notes. ‘I find it disappointing that EPP/CD member Pieter Omtzigt took the lead in this, and in the end it was he that presented the proposal that deprived the Russians of their voting rights. At that, the Russians let it be known that they would suspend all further cooperation with PACE. I’m asking myself why people like Omtzigt, who has always said that Russia must be called to account for its actions in Ukraine, has just dismantled the only parliamentary platform available for doing so. For me this is posturing, tough but stupid. People suffering under the civil war in Ukraine, but also from the corruption and lawlessness, gain nothing from this. And if as likely Russia resigns also from the European Court of Human Rights, 130 million Russians will lose their unique human rights protection. So we have only losers!.
‘If, in times of crisis,’ UEL Chairman Kox continued, ‘politicians are going to keep quiet; the chance that the cannons will go on speaking only grows greater. In Ukraine there have already been more than 5,000 deaths, 10,000 wounded and a million refugees. In a year’s time things will have got completely out of control. In my view, everyone involved should be taken to task about their reprehensible behaviour. For a start, Ukraine’s government, which is responsible for what is happening on its territory, even if that’s difficult. Then there’s Russia, but also the European Union, NATO and the United States, all of whom have thus far contributed to the intensification of tension and the increase in violence in Ukraine. Their increasing Cold War rhetoric is attributing guilt to each other rather than seeking together a peaceful solution. That’s scandalous!’
During this week’s PACE session, members of the Russian delegation were brutally attacked in front of the building by individuals who appeared to be Ukrainian MPS from the Radical Party, who recorded their assault on camera and published it on camera and published it on Facebook. ‘After I put this unacceptable behaviour on the agenda for discussion, the Ukrainian delegation offered their apologies and promised an urgent enquiry into the consequences in Ukraine of this behaviour for the MPs involved’ said Kox. ‘The president of the Parliamentary Assembly demands action from the president of the Ukrainian Parliament. The Council of Europe has called in the French police.’