Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 10.10.2017
Russia, invader of Europe in Ukraine, isn’t doing well in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The Russian delegation was kicked out of PACE on 10 April 2014, seven weeks after Russia began it’s invasion of Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea. The Council of Europe overseas the European Court of Human Rights. The members of PACE voted by 145 votes to 21, with 22 abstentions, to suspend Russian participation because Russia’s military occupation of Ukrainian territory constituted “beyond any doubt, a grave violation of international law.” As Russia has not ceased to occupy parts of Ukraine or to violate human rights there, the Russian delegation has been denied admission to PACE sessions ever since.
Logically, the Putin regime should have stopped attacking Ukraine and ended its occupation of Crimea to regain admission to PACE. To the contrary, being expelled from an international body infuriated the Russians and they sought revenge, Russia worked its revenge against PACE through Pedro Agramunt. Pedro Agramunt (on the photo) is a Spanish politician who was twice elected to be President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Agramunt has demonstrated a closeness to authoritarian regimes in Russia, in Azerbaijan, and in Syria. Until he resigned as PACE president, Agramunt expressed pro-Russian views, spoke of his intention to bring the Russian delegation back to PACE, and publicly wished for the lifting of sanctions on Russia before that country de-occupied Ukraine.
Before becoming president, Agramunt was the rapporteur for PACE on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. As rapporteur, he was criticized by the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly and the Institute for Peace and Democracy for being overly close to the authoritarian regime of Ilham Aliyev and of doing nothing to shine a light on human rights abuses in Azerbaijan. When Agramunt became PACE president, he was accused of conducting corrupt “caviar diplomacy” with the Azerbaijan regime, and sullying the reputation of PACE. This accusation was in a motion calling for his dismissal, signed by 158 delegates.
On 9 March 2017, Pedro Agramunt personally invited a Russian parliamentary delegation to PACE meetings. This was a violation of PACE resolutions about Russian non-participation. Furthermore, Agramunt invited Leonid Slutsky to head the Russian delegation. Leonid Slutsky is head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Duma. He is also a sanctioned individual for constituting a grave threat to international peace and security. Slutsky was placed on the United States sanctions list on 17 March 2014 as a key figure in Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine. Slutsky was subsequently placed on the sanctions lists of Canada and of the European Union.
Agramunt made several trips to Moscow. His go-between to the Putin regime seemed to always be Slutsky.
Pedro Agramunt was stripped of his powers as president of PACE in April 2017, after he made an unexplained trip to Syria to visit with Bashar al-Assad. He flew there on a Russian military aircraft, once again in the company of sanctioned Russian politician Leonid Slutsky. Agramunt resigned as President on 6 October 2017, stating “personal reasons,” but this was to forestall the looming vote on the motion calling for his dismissal.
With Agramunt out as president, the Russians have lost this means to corrupt PACE. But without pausing for breath, the invaders of Europe are mounting their next attack. Hungarian and Romanian delegates to PACE requested that Ukraine’s law on education be “urgently discussed” at the upcoming session. They will want to paint the legislation as being contrary to the obligation of Council of Europe members, like Ukraine, to respect minority language rights. There is little substance to this charge, as more cool-headed evaluations of Ukraine’s education law have shown. It is the expelled Russians who are driving the agenda of the Hungarians and the Romanians, because Russia does not want to see Ukrainian children go to school in Ukraine and have Ukrainian be the primary language of instruction. Volodymyr Ariev, head of the Ukrainian delegation at PACE, believes that the anti-Ukraine resolution is an act of political revenge for Ukraine’s strong influence in pushing pro-Russian Pedro Agramunt to resign.
Sanctioned war criminal Leonid Slutsky wants to get back into the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, along with other Russian delegates who like him are violators of human rights. He did not succeed in doing that through Pedro Agramunt, so the next attempt will be a direct attack against Ukraine in the assembly. The delegates to PACE must not be fooled. Russia is still occupying parts of Ukraine, the largest wholly European country, and Russia still violates international law. PACE must never give in to Russia’s insidious corruption if it is to serve its purpose, which is to be a champion for human rights in Europe.