Ukraine on Monday demanded that Russia be immediately expelled from the Council of Europe (COE), saying it had no right to remain a member of the pan-European rights body after invading its neighbour.
The council’s executive body, the committee of ministers, had suspended Russia from all its rights of representation a day after the invasion — but an expulsion would be unprecedented.
“We urge you to take a decision on the immediate expulsion of Russia from the Council of Europe,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, eastern France, via video link.
He added that Russia’s attack meant it “cannot stay in the European family”.
“Ukraine is on fire, hundreds of houses have been destroyed, millions of Ukrainians lack electricity, heating,” said the premier, addressing the session in place of President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was said to be handling urgent developments amid talks with Russia.
“We need to unite our efforts to defend Ukraine but also to defend all of Europe,” Shmyhal said.
The parliamentary assembly, meeting in an extraordinary session to discuss the invasion, does not have the power to expel a member but it could recommend that the committee of ministers effectively take such a step.
The assembly is expected on Tuesday to adopt a resolution recommending that the committee “invite” Russia to withdraw from the body.
COE secretary general Marija Pejcinovic Buric told AFP in an interview earlier this month that “more and more voices” were calling for Russia to be expelled.
An expulsion would mean that Russians no longer have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights, which is part of the COE.
No member state has ever been expelled from the council, which was created in 1949. Both Russia and Ukraine are members.
When it was under military rule Greece walked out of the body in the late 1960s, a move that Russia could make to avoid the stain of expulsion.
‘Let them stew’
Not using the death penalty is a precondition of COE membership, and former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy national security council chief, had evoked bringing back capital punishment if Russia left the body.
Russia has observed a moratorium on the death penalty since 1996 though it has never formally abolished the practice.
Russian MP Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy chairman of the PACE until the current crisis, has indicated Moscow wants to quit the COE, writing: “Let them stew in their own juice, without us.”
But Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denied Russia had already quit the body. “We are in the process of drawing a line but it is not completely drawn,” he said Saturday.
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