On Tuesday, Russia decided to withdraw from the Council of Europe, accusing NATO and the European Union of making it a tool in the service of their “military, political and economic expansion in the East”, on the twentieth day of the invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “the notification of the Russian Federation’s withdrawal from the organization” was delivered on Tuesday to the Secretary-General of the Russian Federation, Maria Bejinovich Borech.
Daniel Holtgen, spokesman for the Council of Europe, confirmed that “the Secretary-General has received an official notification of the withdrawal of the Russian Federation (…) as well as information on its intention to denounce the European Convention on Human Rights.”
The human rights watchdog in Europe, founded in 1949, until then brought together almost all the countries of the continent, 47 countries, including Russia since 1996, and Ukraine, since 1995. Only Belarus, an ally of Moscow, was none of them.
“Those who force us to take this step will bear full responsibility for the destruction of the common human and legal space on the continent and the consequences for the Council of Europe itself, which, without Russia, would lose its status as a pan-European,” the Russian Foreign Ministry resumed.
The ministry continues, NATO and the European Union, “see this organization as nothing but an ideological support tool for their military, political and economic expansion in the East, a means to impose a ‘rules-based order’ that benefits them, and in effect a ‘game without rules’.”
The main tangible result of this withdrawal is that 145 million Russians will no longer be able to benefit from the protection of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the judicial arm of the Council of Europe, which is the last resort against arbitrariness in the courts. in their country.
Moscow is already the main provider of cases before the European Court of Human Rights: more than 24% of the cases currently pending before the Council’s judiciary concern Russia, with some symbolic cases, such as that of opponent Alexei Navalny.
In her statement, the Russian diplomat rightly accuses the institutions of the Council of Europe, including the European Court of Human Rights, of being “systematically used to exert pressure on Russia and to interfere in its internal affairs.”
Moscow was already suspended from the Council the day after the invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. A number of Russian officials had hinted last weekend that Moscow was preparing to leave the Council of Europe permanently, but no official request has been submitted so far.
Thus, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Foundation was still meeting on Monday and Tuesday to decide on the possible exclusion of Russia from the organization, in light of the “grave violations of the statute of the Council of Europe” committed with the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia preferred to take the initiative and announce that it was closing the door before suffering the humiliation of exclusion.
As a significant consequence, this departure of Russia will deprive the Council of Europe of about 7% of its annual budget, roughly 500 million euros.
This is the second time the establishment has faced such a scenario: Greece has already scrambled in the same way, leaving the council before being expelled from it in 1969 under the colonel’s dictatorial regime. She had joined him in 1974.
Already in 2014, Russian parliamentarians participating in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) were deprived of their voting rights after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, which responded in particular by suspending his contribution to the Council.
After five years of high tension, the dispute was settled and the Russian delegation rejoined PACE in 2019, much to the chagrin of Ukrainian parliamentarians.
A committee of Council of Europe ministers is due to meet on Wednesday to decide on the situation.
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