Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Moscow’s Likely Exit from Council of Europe Highlights New Iron Curtain and Harsher Regime Policies against Russians, Zhelenin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – The Putin regime has always treated international organizations less as forums for cooperation than as places where it can push its own agenda, but its departure from the Council of Europe, either by its own choice or expulsion, matters because it shows that Moscow no longer feels it must act as if it needs these groups at all, Aleksandr Zhelenin says.

            And because its departure is likely given the dispute about Aleksey Navalny whose release the Council has demanded, the Rosbalt writer says, it is important to see that this event shows that Moscow is building a new iron curtain around the country and planning to impose even harsher controls on Russia (

            The majority of Russians, he argues, do not make a clear distinction between the Council of Europe and the European Union and thus do not recognize that the Council is “an international organization involved with human rights, the development of democracy and so on, things that are quite ephemeral for the present-day Russian elite.”

            Russia has long been a member of the Council of Europe and even ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998, Zhelenin says, an action that gives Russian citizens, including most recently Navalny, the right to appeal to the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.

            Moscow has sometimes fulfilled the Council’s directives and the Courts decision, but with regard to Navalny, it isn’t going to. Instead, Russian officials are making clear that they view the European actions as unjustified and insupportable interference in the domestic affairs of the Russian Federation.

            This new hard line may lead Russia to walk out of the Council or be expelled or suspended. That will cost Russia something but not much, Zhelenin says. Its membership has long been “no more than one of the democratic decorations which it has used from time to time to confuse naïve Europeans” who hope Russia will change for the better.

            But now, and representing yet another manifestation of Vladimir Putin’s desire that nothing should change as long as he is in office, Moscow doesn’t need such “decorations.” It can go its own way and ignore what others are doing because it is busy erecting a new iron curtain around Russia and imposing ever harsher controls on the Russian people.

            If Russia leaves the Council either on its own or by expulsion, Russians will no longer be able to appeal to the European Court or at least expect any decisions there to be respected in Moscow. But one change some are talking about is unlikely to happen: Moscow won’t end its moratorium on the death penalty.

            The reasons for that are clear. Putin doesn’t need the legal execution of his enemies to kill them or otherwise impose his will, and he doesn’t want there to be any chance that he or those connected with him might be subject to such penalties if his time in power should end before his life does, Zhelenin concludes.

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