The speaker of Russia’s State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin, has decided not to travel to next week’s session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, fearing his proposals for the body would be eclipsed by concerns about Russia’s legal system.
“The closer we got to the opening of the PACE session, the more we felt that my strategic proposals were unlikely to receive a fair hearing from the assembly, from a host of leaders and Russo-phobic delegations,” Naryshkin told journalists in Moscow.
Naryshkin, who was to lead the Russian delegation to the PACE session, had planned to discuss major issues in the development of parliamentarianism in Europe.
“There is more interest in other things. I believe it is possible I could address the session when the circumstances are appropriate,” Naryshkin said.
Naryshkin was scheduled to address PACE and answer questions from delegates on October 1. On the following day, the assembly is scheduled to examine the new report on Russia’s honoring of its PACE commitments, which has not been done since 2005.
The draft of the report, by rapporteurs Andreas Gross and Gyorgy Frunda, calls for continued monitoring of Russia’s commitments, citing the harsh sentences handed down to the all-female punk collective Pussy Riot and the slow pace of reform of the judicial system.
Later on Thursday, Naryshkin’s replacement to lead the delegation denied any plans to boycott the session.
“No one is planning to boycott anything,” State Duma Deputy Alexei Pushkov, who is the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told journalists.
“The delegation is leaving on Saturday-Sunday and all its members will attend the PACE session,” he said.
Pushkov said the delegation “is not planning any retaliation” in Strasbourg, despite expectations that Russia will come under sharp criticism at the session.