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Council of Europe backs restoring Russian voting rights after stripping them over Crimea annexation

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Plenary chamber of the Council of Europe's Palace of Europe in Strasbourg
Plenary chamber of the Council of Europe's Palace of Europe in Strasbourg -
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Adrian Grycuk
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The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted on Monday to allow Russian representatives to return to the body after its voting rights were revoked five years ago over the annexation of Crimea.

The Council of Europe is an international organisation set up to promote democracy, as well as protect human rights and the rule of law on the continent.

Its best-known body is the European Court of Human Rights and its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) has more than 300 lawmakers from the organisation's 47 member states.

The motion restoring Russia's voting rights was approved late on Monday evening with 118 votes in favour, 62 against, and 10 abstentions.

The head of the Ukrainian delegation, Volodymyr Ariel, denounced the result of the vote as shameful and said it sends a "very bad message: do what you want, annex another country's territory, kill people there, and you will still leave with everything."

The vote came ahead of an election on Wednesday to choose the organisation's next secretary-general.

Russia, which since being stripped of its voting rights had exerted political pressure and stopped its €33 million-per-year contribution to the Council's budget.

It had also warned it would walk away if it could not take part in the election — a move that would have prevented Russian citizens from being able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Amelie de Montchalin, the French Secretary of State in charge of European Affairs, had said ahead of the vote that she would support bringing Russian lawmakers back into the Parliamentary Assembly's fold to ensure Russian citizens' rights were protected.

"We must not confuse citizens' rights and geopolitics," she told French media outlet CNews.

In December, the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, a human rights NGO, argued that Russia's withdrawal from the Council had to be avoided.

"Russia's departure from the Council would deny Russian citizens protection and justice provided by the Court — worsening human rights in the country," it said in a statement.

"Russia's withdrawal could also have disastrous implications for the region and Europe as a whole. It would result in a lack of protection provided by the Convention and the Court for inhabitants of Russia-controlled Crimea. It would remove levers for continued political and legal pressure on Russia over its aggressive operations in neighbouring countries," it added.

But Euronews’s Moscow correspondent Galina Polonskaya says that while Russia welcomes the restoration of its voting rights, it has no intention of paying €75 million in outstanding subscription fees, covering the period of its suspension.

Watch Galina’s report in the video player above.

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