Ukraine's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has walked out in protest and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has voiced his "disappointment" over Russia having its voting rights reinstalled at the body after a three-year hiatus.
In a June 25 statement on his Facebook page, Zelenskiy said he tried to convince French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in separate meetings to not allow Russia back into Europe's main human rights body until it meets PACE's demands on adherence to principles of rule of law and human rights.
"It's a pity that our European partners didn't hear us and acted differently," Zelenskiy said of the lopsided vote from the Council of Europe's 47 member states, where only 62 of the 190 delegates present opposed a report that made it possible for Russia to return to the chamber.
In his statement, Zelenskiy cited a specific ruling by a UN maritime tribunal to have Russia comply by June 25 to free 24 Ukrainian seamen whom it has held since November.
Ukrainian delegation member Iryna Herashchenko, who is first deputy speaker of Ukraine's parliament, said that the "Ukrainian delegation challenged the credentials of the Russian murders."
PACE's decision to reinstate Russia marked the first time that a major sanction imposed on Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014 has been reversed.
A total of 118 parliament deputies agreed to welcome Russia back into PACE immediately and to blunt the assembly's ability to impose sanctions similar to those on Russia in the future, while 10 abstained.
Five of the seven Dutch delegates, for example, backed the reversal.
On June 19, a Dutch-led international investigation named three Russians and a Ukrainian as murder suspects in the downing of flight MH17 five years ago in which all 298 people on board were killed from a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air Buk missile.
The assembly said this clarification of its rules was to “ensure that member states’ right and obligation to be represented and to participate in both statutory bodies of the Council of Europe is respected.”
The assembly also invited the parliaments of Council of Europe member states "which are not represented by a delegation" to PACE to present their credentials during the ongoing annual session.
That means Russia can present a delegation to PACE on June 25, paving the way for the country to participate in the election of a new secretary-general for the Council of Europe the next day.
The head of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE, Volodymyr Ariyev, said the assembly's decision sent "a very bad message: do what you want, annex another country's territory, kill people there, and you will still leave with everything."
The head of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Leonid Slutsky, said PACE "made a huge step toward defending the rights of national delegations."
Russia's delegation will not tolerate "any more sanctions, no matter how insignificant," Slutsky also said.
In 2014, Russia was stripped of its voting rights in PACE following Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and its backing of militant separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed some 13,000 people since April 2014.
Russia responded in 2016 by boycotting the assembly, and has since 2017 refused to pay its annual contribution of 33 million euros, roughly 7 percent of the council's budget.
The country had threatened to quit the body altogether if its delegation isn't reinstated and it can't vote on the next secretary-general to succeed Norway's Thorbjorn Jagland.
Germany and France have supported Russia’s reintroduction to PACE, arguing that it’s better to have Russia included to promote dialogue even if there are disagreements on issues.