The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament says he will not attend the October 1-5 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.
"We felt that my big strategic proposals were unlikely to be heard by some leaders of the Parliamentary Assembly and some Russophobic delegations," Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin said. "It looks like they are more interested in something else."
European lawmakers are to vote on a resolution on Russia on October 2. A draft of it notes "serious concerns" over what it says are four "worrying" recent restrictive laws and says that "Russian society needs concrete reforms."
The resolution also slams the recent conviction and jailing of three members of the feminist punk performance-art group Pussy Riot on hooliganism charges for a performance in Russia's main cathedral. It says their two-year jail sentences are "patently disproportionate" and calls for their release.
Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chief Aleksei Pushkov on September 27 characterized the resolution as an attempt to make Russia "revise" its legislation.
"[The report] says we should essentially revise our legislation," Pushkov said, "revise the principles of permitting demonstrations and applying sanctions against their organizers, revise the recent verdict for the three members of Pussy Riot, revise the law on alternative military service, refrain from applying the law on extremism to religious groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, and comply with Georgian-initiated resolutions on Abkhazia and Ossetia, which would be equivalent to Russia renouncing its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia's sovereignty."
The Duma, dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, this summer passed laws hiking fines for political protests, criminalizing slander, introducing a mandatory label of "foreign agent" for foreign nongovernmental organizations, and creating a blacklist for undesirable Internet sites.
Naryshkin is a top ally of President Vladimir Putin and previously served as head of the Kremlin administration. He said he would have spoken to the assembly about "big problems in the development of parliamentarism in Europe [and] about forming a frontier-free Europe."
The Duma was to decide later on September 27 whether or not the entire Russian delegation of deputies should snub the session in Strasbourg, deputy Robert Shlegel of United Russia wrote on Twitter.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax