Ukrainian President Zelenskiy addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

European human rights council expels Russia over Ukrainian war

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Council of Europe on Wednesday expelled Russia from the continent’s foremost human rights body in an unprecedented move over its invasion and war in Ukraine.

The 47-nation organization’s committee of ministers said in statement that “the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership.”

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The decision comes on the heels of weeks of condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Early in the week, the group’s parliamentary assembly already initiated the process of expulsion and unanimously backed that Russia would be kicked out.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted Wednesday that it would have left the body regardless. In an interview with Russian broadcaster RBK, he accused NATO and EU countries of “abusing their majority in the council, eventually transforming it into a tool for anti-Russian policy.” Ukraine is also a member of the Council of Europe.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba immediately welcomed the decision, posting on Twitter that there was “no place for Russia in European bodies as it wages a barbaric war of aggression against Ukraine and commits multiple war crimes.”

It was unclear what the extent of support was for the expulsion since the Committee of Ministers arrived at a “consensus” behind closed doors, making it impossible to have a full breakdown of votes.