Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 39

The Federation Council yesterday unanimously approved documents endorsing Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe and thus cleared the last hurdle to Moscow’s long-delayed entry into the European human rights organization. The Duma had voted overwhelmingly the preceding day in favor of membership. First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov lobbied hard for approval during the Duma session, arguing that the benefits of membership would far outweigh the costs, which could run to $25 million annually. Singling out the Baltic states, Ivanov identified access to a forum in which Moscow could defend the rights of Russians abroad as one of the benefits of membership. Russian president Boris Yeltsin must still sign the membership documents, but he has consistently supported Russia’s entry into the Council. Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov is to represent Russia at the induction ceremony, tentatively set for next week.

Russia membership requires it to ratify, within one year, conventions guaranteeing human rights, ending the death penalty, protecting minorities, and outlawing torture. With those obligations in mind, President Yeltsin ordered the government February 21 to accelerate action on bringing Russian laws into conformity with Council norms. Primakov is to coordinate that work at the head of a special interministerial group. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which voted to make Russia its 39th member on January 25, also created a committee tasked with monitoring Russia’s military actions in Chechnya, a mission that could still rankle the political leadership in Moscow. (4)

Ghosts of Army Days Past.