Council of Europe Lifts Threat to Russians
The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly moved away yesterday from a threat to suspend Russia's membership immediately over the Chechen war.
It looked likely to give Moscow a further three months to meet human rights demands in the breakaway republic.
The assembly, which comprises 573 lawmakers from the 41 Council of Europe nations, is scheduled to vote on Chechnya today at its headquarters in Strasbourg, France.
During a mission to Moscow this month, assembly members warned that Russia could be expelled because of failure to respect the council's core human rights rules.
A vote to suspend Russia's membership would be the first time the assembly has taken such action against a member nation for almost 20 years and would be seen as a symbolic blow to Russian aspirations for closer ties with European institutions.
However, instead of proposing an immediate suspension of the 36-member Russian delegation, the assembly's Political Affairs Committee submitted a report giving Moscow a further three months to show progress towards ending the Chechen conflict.
The committee's report called on Russia to stop attacks on civilians, open ceasefire talks with Chechen authorities and allow access to Chechnya for international monitors and news media.
Failure to respect those conditions would "inevitably necessitate" a review of Russia's membership of the Council of Europe when the assembly next meets in April, the report warns.
"If there is no progress by April, there will be a grave situation in terms of their membership," said the report's author Lord Judd.
Some in the assembly were still hoping for immediate action against Russia.
The centre-right European People's Party, the second largest in the assembly, plans to introduce an amendment today that would suspend the Russian delegation's voting rights. …