April 14. 2024. 6:52

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Ukraine to boycott upcoming OSCE meeting in Vienna

Ukraine will boycott the OSCE meeting in Vienna due to Russian participation, with Ukrainian parliamentarians fearing a “whitewash” of Russian war crimes and their speaker calling for it to be postponed as it will be held exactly one year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started.

The Ukrainian parliament will not send representatives to the winter session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – set for 23-24 February in OSCE headquarters in Vienna – parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefantschuk tweeted Tuesday.

“We have learned that the Austrian authorities are willing to issue visas for members of the Russian delegation, and therefore, Russian parliamentarians will attend the winter session,” Ukrainian delegation leader Mykyta Poturayev wrote to OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Margareta Cederfelt in a letter obtained by APA.

Ukraine would not be able to participate due to the presence of the Russian delegation, Poturayev explained, demanding a postponement of the meeting and hinting at support from other members, without naming names.

Poturayev said he is convinced that the Russian delegation would use the event to “justify aggression against Ukraine” and “whitewash war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Ukrainians”.

“All this will undermine the integrity of the Parliamentary Assembly and compromise the clear position it has shown on Russian aggression since 2014,” he stressed, APA reported.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg defended the participation of Russian delegates at the OSCE meeting after parliamentarians from 20 OSCE countries urged the government to bar Russian diplomats from attending.

Every relationship and every conversation with Russia would be difficult, “but we have to stay in dialogue”, he said. “Because at some point, hopefully, diplomacy will be given space again.”

Although he regretted the meeting’s planned date as “a very unfortunate one”, he noted that Vienna must allow all delegates from all participating states to enter the country due to international law.

Among the countries that called on Austria to prevent Russian officials from entering the country, Lithuania even threatened to boycott the meeting if Austria were not to even consider the call.

“Our delegation will probably not be able to go there and sit in the same room with the people who should be standing before a special military tribunal because those people are directly responsible for initiating the war,” the leader of the Lithuanian delegation Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė told reporters at the Lithuanian parliament, LRT reported.

Russia has been causing problems in the OSCE over the last 18 months after it has failed to give its approval on key matters including budgets and mandates. This has plunged the organisation into an administrative deadlock causing uncertainty about future operations and chairmanships.

There is no mechanism within the OSCE to remove or prohibit members from participating, therefore any move to prevent Russia from attending would likely have to relate to postponements or refusals to issue visas.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)