Council of Europe to vote on Russia expulsion – but could Putin choose to walk out?

Russian news broadcast interrupted by war protest

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The Kremlin has been hit with a wide range of sanctions, since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. One of the first international bodies to impose penalties against Russia was the Council of Europe – the continent’s leading human rights institution.

On Monday, the Council of Europe held an emergency session of its Parliament, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was expected to make an address at.

However, Mr Zelensky was unable to attend and instead sent his Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to speak via video-link.

During the session, Mr Shmyhal delivered a clear message to Council of Europe representatives.

He said: “We demand that a decision is approved to immediately oust Russia from the Council of Europe.

“Those who carried out this unprovoked and unjustified aggression cannot stay in this European family where human life is regarded as the highest value.”

The day after Russia invaded Ukraine (February 24), the Council of Europe took action and suspended Moscow’s membership.

But it stopped short of expelling the country, despite pressure from the Baltic nations to do so.

Having reached an agreed opinion on the situation in Russia, the council’s parliamentary assembly will reconvene on Tuesday and vote on Russia’s expulsion.

For the vote to pass, a two-thirds majority is needed. From there it will go to the committee of ministers – the main decision-making body which represents all 47 members – on Thursday for a final decision.

The result of Tuesday’s vote should be known at about 8pm tonight.

Has the Council of Europe expelled a member before?

Voting to remove a member is an extremely rare occurrence.

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The only precedent for a country being removed was in 1969 when the Greek military dictatorship withdrew, knowing it faced being expelled. Greece was readmitted in 1974.

Could Russia walk out?

As there’s a strong likelihood that Moscow will be voted out, it could choose to follow the same playbook used by Greece.

There have been talks that Russia has already walked out of the institution, but the Council of Europe insisted it remained a member.

What is the Council of Europe?

The Council of Europe is an international organisation founded in 1949 to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe.

Today, it’s made up of 47 member states and is headquartered in Strasbourg, France.

Although they sound alike, the Council of Europe should not be confused with the European Council, which is an entirely separate body.

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