Sergei Kislyak: Russian senators take part in main discussions of PACE summer session

The June session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has completed its work in Strasbourg.

Russian senators took part in the main discussions of the PACE summer session, reported First Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Federation Committee on Foreign Affairs Sergei Kislyak who headed the senator part of the Russian PACE delegation.

The session of the assembly and its relevant commissions was attended by the following senators of the Russian Federation: Аlexander Bashkin, Dmitry Vasilenko, Andrei Yepishin, Vladimir Kozhin, Vladimir Krugly, Irina Rukavishnikova, Olga Khokhlova and Oleg Alekseyev.

Discussions in PACE again took place in the hybrid format, with limited attendance of MPs in session rooms. Russian MPs took part in the work of the assembly online.

As Mr Kislyak noted, the main items on the agenda were devoted to discussions on COVID-19: legal consequences of the introduction of Covid-passports and certificates; ways of overcoming socio-economic problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of the situation on the rights of children.

MPs discussed the responsibility of politicians for the statements they make during carrying out their duties, and the transparency and regulation of foreign donations for the needs of political parties. Much attention was paid to discussing freedom of the media, the right of people to receive information and European policy towards diasporas.

Sergei Kislyak took part in discussing the PACE report and resolution “Transparency and regulation of donations to political parties and electoral campaigns from foreign donors.”

The senator noted that the Russian delegation will not support the report because it pursues anti-Russia and propaganda objectives. “Some of the documents of the speaker are beyond criticism. His report contains unverified facts. We know that some states plan to interfere in political processes in other countries, including Russia,” he said.

Discussing the developments in the Republic of Belarus, Sergei Kislyak said that its very topic “The situation in Belarus: a threat to the whole of Europe” involves PACE in an unconstructive discussion. Speakers distort the real information about Belarus and do not quote objective facts. “It is necessary to be honest in reflecting the true situation in that country. Nowadays, it is important to give the residents of Belarus an opportunity to deal with their own problems,” he said.

Member of the Council of the Federation Committee on Social Policy Vladimir Krugly and member of its Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building Alexander Bashkin attended the discussion linked with the COVID-19 pandemic, in part, on Covid-passports.

Vladimir Krugly thanked the speakers for the work they had done, for clear-cut and well-considered formulations of the resolution. He said the Brussels summit of the European Council approved in February the introduction of Covid-passports as a document that allows its bearers to move freely in the EU without the need to be tested on entering an EU country and subjected to quarantine for two weeks. The senator said that Covid-passports will be issued to people who were given one of the four EMA-approved vaccines. A different sort of certificate will be given to those with a negative PCR test and those who recovered from coronavirus and have an official document to this effect.

“The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is still studying the Russian Sputnik V vaccine with a view to including it on the list of medication for use in an emergency. Sputnik V is second in the world in the number of approvals by state regulators. We hope the EMA will approve it as soon as possible. This will eliminate discrimination against citizens of Russia and other countries vaccinated with it when entering EU countries,” the senator said.

According to Alexander Bashkin, to properly introduce passports, it is necessary to have a firm foundation — the presence of accessible, fast and free tests for the infection and the existence of efficient vaccines. “It is necessary to draft a universal document that will be recognised by all countries, such as, for instance, a general civil or diplomatic passport,” the MP said.

Member of the Council of the Federation Committee on Science, Education and Culture Olga Khokhlova commented on the aspects of the female agenda. She said that Russia is paying a good deal of attention to violence against women and family violence. “Russian competent bodies are focusing on the prevention of these crimes in accordance with national legislation. The National Action Strategy for Women for 2017–2022 is an important instrument in this respect. It contains provisions on preventing social ill-being and violence as regards women,” she said.

The Senator noted that this topic is a subject of partnership cooperation between the Russian Federation and the European Council. Over a period of the last three years Russia has successfully carried out the first stage of its National Action Strategy for Women.

“Russia unconditionally supports the goals of the Istanbul Convention, including equality of women and men and the creation of Europe free of violence against women and family violence. At the same time, we have not ratified the Istanbul Convention because its provisions do not conform to statutory provisions of a number of legislative acts of the Russian Federation,”Ms Khokhlova explained.

Vladimir Kozhin submitted a number of amendments to the resolution on European policy on diasporas. Their objective is to prevent any forms of discrimination against diasporas and to create conditions for their access to the study of their native tongue and education in it.

Discussing the PACE report “The situation of Crimean Tatars,” Irina Rukavishnikova said that the speaker was deliberately ignoring the changes that had taken place in Crimea after its reunification with Russia. “The report does not contain unbiased information because the speaker is simply not interested in the real picture,” she said.

The MP noted that the Crimean Tatar language has now become on the peninsula one of the national languages alongside Russian and Ukrainian.

Ms Rukavishnikova drew attention to the fact that the speaker had not communicated with any Crimean Tatars now living in Crimea and had prepared her conclusion in absentia. “This report of hers has nothing to do with reality. Meanwhile, the international community must be presented with complete objective information on what is happening in Crimea,” she emphasised.

Alexander Bashkin reported that the Russian delegation does not support the submitted document. He said there are 16 schools teaching in the Crimean Tatar language on the peninsula and 22 schools have special lessons in the language. Over 30,000 school pupils are learning it as a subject in 333 schools. Recently, 13 mosques have been erected in Crimea. Another 15 mosques are currently under construction. Crimea has the world’s only Crimean Tatar theatre and there are national newspapers and magazines published in the language.

Mr Bashkin invited his PACE colleagues to visit Crimea anytime they like to gather authentic information.

The Senator also spoke on the topic “Media freedom, public trust and the people’s right to know.” He emphasised the importance of public access to information on healthcare in accordance with international commitments and national legislations of states. He said this applies to the conditions of the pandemic as well.