PACE
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Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to make it possible for Russia to return to the chamber following a three-year hiatus. The vote took place early on June 25 following debate during PACE's opening summer session in Strasbourg.

The decision marked the first time that a major sanction imposed on Moscow since its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014 has been reversed.

With 47 member states, the Council of Europe is the continent's main human rights body.

A total of 118 parliamentarians agreed to welcome Russia back into PACE immediately and to blunt the assembly's ability to impose sanctions similar to those on Russia in the future. Sixty-two members of the parliamentary assembly voted against the move and 10 abstained.

In a resolution, PACE decided that its members' "rights to vote, to speak, and to be represented in the Assembly and its bodies shall not be suspended or withdrawn in the context of a challenge to or reconsideration of credentials." The assembly said this clarification of its rules was to "ensure that member States' right and obligation to be represented and to participate in both statutory bodies of the Council of Europe is respected."

The assembly also invited the parliaments of Council of Europe member states "which are not represented by a delegation" to PACE to present their credentials during the ongoing annual session.

That means Russia can present a delegation to PACE on June 25, paving the way for the country to participate in the election of a new secretary-general for the Council of Europe the next day.

The head of the Ukranian delegation to PACE, Volodymyr Ariev, said the assembly's decision sends "a very bad message: do what you want, annexe another country's territory, kill people there, and you will still leave with everything."

The head of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Leonid Slutsky, said PACE "made a huge step toward defending the rights of national delegations."

Russia's delegation will not tolerate "any more sanctions, no matter how insignificant," Slutsky also said.

In 2014, Russia was stripped of its voting rights in PACE following Moscow's takeover of Crimea and its backing of militant separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed some 13,000 people since April 2014. Russia responded in 2016 by boycotting the assembly, and has since 2017 refused to pay its annual contribution of 33 million euros, roughly 7 percent of the council's budget.

The country had threatened to quit the body altogether if its delegation isn't reinstated and it can't vote on the next secretary-general to succeed Norway's Thorbjorn Jagland.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have supported Russia's reintroduction to PACE, arguing that it's better to have Russia included to promote dialogue even if there are disagreements on issues.