Kremlin strategy: Russia may have long plotted quitting Council of Europe

13:00, 05 February 2016
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It appears that Russia may have prepared grounds more than 10 years ago for a future exit from the Council of Europe, according to the Europeiska Pravda online newspaper.

Photo from UNIAN

The Russian Government represented by the Justice Ministry has launched the first-ever constitutional proceedings regarding the law allowing Moscow to not implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and this may result in the exclusion of Russia from the Council of Europe.

And there are reasons to believe that the Kremlin has blueprinted this special operation on Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe (CE) for more than 10 years.

The thing is that the CE member states are required to implement all decisions of the Strasbourg court. There are no exceptions.

Strasbourg warned last week: those who plan to violate this rule will sooner or later leave the organization. Now, Russia is preparing its next step, as the Strasbourg court’s rulings have long been a sore subject for Russian officials. A multimillion-dollar suit of Yukos, the cases regarding Russian opposition, which Russia will probably lose and, finally, a series of lawsuits from Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens in relation to the events in Crimea and Donbas – all of this is sufficient reason for the Kremlin to seek a way out.

According to the Moscow’s strategy, Russia should not initiate the withdrawal. The best scenario for the Kremlin is the forced expulsion by the “anti-Russian Western forces.”

Then Russia would turn into a victim of Western aggression – in the eyes of its citizens and also for many Europeans. Because Russia is keen on “trolling” international organizations, it went with this scenario.

Russia wants the first official refusal to implement the ECHR decisions not to relate to the Ukrainian issue, persecution of the opposition, or the rights of minorities.

Russia chose a different solution, which is "perfect" in this context. ECHR ordered Russia to give prisoners their voting right. Currently, the Russian prisoners are deprived of this right.

According to one of the versions, the initial claim to the ECHR was in fact initiated by the Russian authorities, considering that the two ordinary prisoners who had filed lawsuits hardly had any money for lawyers that could handle such cases.


However - and this is most important - some Western European countries have a problem with exactly the same decisions of the ECHR. For example, the United Kingdom, which is also in no great rush to implement the decision on giving a voting right to prisoners.

Russia will become the first country to declare officially that it will not comply with the ECHR decision (because Britain says it seeks legal ways of such implementation).

And so, apparently, Moscow will have to be punished for breaking the rules of the Council of Europe ... but it will be the case to accuse Strasbourg of selectivity, saying that it is not fair to punish Russia while the UK remains clean.

The next step is easy to predict – Moscow may choose to reduce contributions to the budget of the Council of Europe.

Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland is not interested in Russia's expulsion from the organization, openly declaring it. In response to a request from, the official’s press service said that the solution to the existing problem with constitutional proceedings in Russia may still be found.

But it seems that the process of Moscow’s withdrawal can hardly be reversed.

If Russia actually leaves the Council of Europe or officially ceases to comply with the key decisions of the ECHR, this will definitely affect Ukraine. Thus, Ukraine will lose one of the internationally recognized instruments of pressure on Moscow.

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