The Estonian delegation along with the representatives of six other member states left the Wednesday sitting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in protest against the reinstatement of Russia's voting rights.
The Estonian, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Slovakian, and Georgian delegations left the session chamber of PACE in protest on Wednesday. After PACE decided to readmit Russia in full early on Tuesday morning, the Russian delegation already participated in Wednesday's vote on the appointment of a new secretary-general of the council.
"The unconditional restoration of the Russian delegation's voting rights without the Russian Federation honoring any of the Assembly's numerous demands runs counter to the core values of the Council of Europe and its Statute," a joint statement of the seven delegations reads.
Delegates: Decision threatens council's credibility
"This step sends a very wrong signal to the country that has resorted to armed aggression, poisoning of individuals, does not observe human rights of its citizens and does not promote, but seeks to destabilize democracies throughout Europe," the delegates added.
The delegations further see the future of the council under threat, as its current course means it loses the trust of the very people it stands to protect.
"We are returning home to consult our parliaments and governments about the joint actions in the assembly in the next sessions," the delegates said.
President Kaljulaid: Decision to reinstate Russia's voting rights "shameful"
In a vote early on Tuesday morning, PACE decided to reinstate Russia's voting rights on the council. After Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, the council had suspended its voting rights, following which Russia refused to pay its annual membership contribution of €33 million to the council, tearing a hole in the institution's finances.
Of PACE's representatives, 118 voted in favor and 68 against. There were 10 abstentions. All three Estonian representatives voted against, media reported on Tuesday morning.
President Kersti Kaljulaid called the decision "shameful," stressing that there haven't been any developments since 2014 that would justify such a step. "The reason for these sanctions was a blatant violation of international law by Russia. Not one of the reasons why Russia's voting rights were suspended in 2014 has changed," the president wrote.
Tuesday decision implies substantial setback for Russian citizens as well
The council is Europe's largest human rights organization. The human rights perspective, then, was the main argument of those in favor of inviting Russia back. French secretary of state for European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, was quoted as saying ahead of the vote that it would be "dangerous" to leave millions of Russian citizens "without access to institutions that defend their rights."
Due to the lacking impartiality and independence of Russian courts, the European Court of Human Rights has become an important place to turn to for help for plenty of Russians.
Editor: Dario Cavegn