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Ukraine warns Council of Europe not to lift Russia ban

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Ukraine has informed that the Council of Europe will lose all legitimacy if it maintains voting rights to Russia, in what would be the first case of penalties on Moscow being lifted since the annexation of Crimea. 

The Strasbourg-based body, which upholds humans rights laws in Europe, seems to vote to let Russia back into the fold on Monday when members of the parliamentary assembly (PACE) will give last decision. 

The Telegraph understands that both France and Germany are in prefer of Russia being handed back its voting rights, which were stripped after the 2014 annexation amid an international outcry. 

“What we have here is not diplomacy, it is the surrender of the Council of Europe.” 

However, each country has mentioned that they would like the Council of Europe to reinstate the voting rights of Russia, which currently sits only as an observer. 

Russia’s parliamentary delegation to PACE was stripped of its voting rights in April 2014 following the annexation of Crimea. Moscow answered to the suspension of voting rights in 2017 by halting its membership payments, which left a larger hole in the Council of Europe’s budget. 

It has also skipped meetings of the body. Advocates of the compromise argue Russian membership of the Council of Europe is essential because it means Moscow is subject to the European Convention on Human Rights, permitting Russian citizens a valuable recourse to justice in cases of abuse by the state. 

The European Court of Human Rights has expired more than 2000 judgments on human rights violations by Russia since 1959 – more than another Council member except for Turkey. 

But critics, including Ukraine, say it would signal that Europe is no longer seriously interested in punishing Russia for its annexation of Crimea and on-going involvement in a five-year war in Eastern Ukraine. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the war in Donbas began. 

Last week Dutch investigators declared murder charges against four men, such as three Russians with links to the military and intelligence services, over the shoot down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by a Russian missile which killed 298 people. 

The agreement adopted by foreign ministers in May was passed by a qualified majority. Britain said it joined a consensus with different ministers, although it was reported the UK opposed the decision along with Poland, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It is uncertain how the UK delegation will vote on Monday.

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