The speaker of Russia's upper house of Parliament denounced U.S. sanctions banning her from attending a world conference and said the days of U.S. superpower domination are nearing an end.
Valentina Matviyenko blasted the United States in a video recording played at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in New York August 31. She and other Russian delegates had planned to attend the meeting, but were deterred from doing so by restrictions placed on Matviyenko's visa.
Matviyenko has been targeted by U.S. sanctions, including a travel ban, since Russia' annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year. While sanctioned officials can attend United Nations events, and the parliamentary group held its meeting at the UN, the group has only observer status there.
The United States last week offered Matviyenko a visa allowing her to go to UN events, but barring her from attending the parliamentarians' conference. That led to the cancellation of the planned visit by the entire Russian legislative delegation.
Matviyenko told fellow parliament speakers by video that she deeply regretted not being able to attend, and said the U.S. visa restrictions were "gross violations of the norms of international law and the principles of democracy and freedom of speech."
"Sanctions against parliamentarians elected by the citizens of their country because of their political views — and this in the 21st century — is nothing other than political persecution," she said.
Matviyenko said U.S. and European sanctions against Russian companies and individuals are aimed at enforcing and leveraging the superpower status of the United States and economic dominance of the West. But they in fact they are only accelerating a shift to "a multipolar world order."
"The old model of a unipolar world order based on the domination by one power or a group of countries has been confined to the past," she said. "A new model of the world is confidently making its way forward."
Saber Chowdhury, president of the parliamentary group, expressed disappointment that Matviyenko had been barred from attending the conference, saying the organization strongly believes dialogue "is fundamental to democracy and international cooperation."
The conference, which takes place every five years, is focused on implementation of UN development goals.
Also in response to the controversy August 31, Russian politicians called on the UN to move its headquarters from the United States to the more neutral country Switzerland, the Russian Izvestia newspaper reported.
Igor Zotov, head of the Russian lower house's defense committee, made the demand in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the report said.
But Switzerland has not been completely neutral on Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis either. The Swiss government has imposed its own sanctions on Russia and adopted ones applied against the country by the European Union.
With reporting by dpa and AP