Council of Europe suspends Russia over Crimea and Ukraine

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A European human rights body has suspended Russia’s voting rights until the end of the year in protest at its annexation of Crimea.

Entirely separate from the EU, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) sits in Strasbourg. The recommendations of its elected members are influential in European politics.

The resolution was passed by 145 votes to 21, with 22 abstentions. It said that Moscow’s ongoing threat of “military force” constituted a “grave violation of international law”.

The Assembly also terminated Russia’s right to take part in election observation missions.

“It’s clear what the Russian leaders have done is irresponsible, it’s a slap in the face of the values of the Council of Europe; you can also say a kick – not in the stomach – but in the soul of the Council of Europe. The basic values of this organisation have been violated and there is no explanation, no excuse, no justification for this,” Andreas Gross, Chairman of the PACE Socialist Group, told the chamber.

Russia boycotted the session, describing the resolution as a “farce”, and is threatening to terminate its membership of PACE.

President Putin, who signed Crimea’s annexation into Russian law last month, has warned European leaders that Ukraine’s gas debt could affect supplies to Europe.

The Assembly also condemned Russia’s military occupation of Ukrainian territory and what it called its “illegal so-called referendum” in Crimea.