I will answer it in two different ways because there are two sides to this story. For those of us from the Russian democratic opposition and from Russian civil society, whenever we meet our western friends and counterparts, we always emphasize that it's important to differentiate between the regime and the people in Russia. The Kremlin does not equate to Russia; they are two different things. It's in that spirit that I will answer your question in two different ways.
First, I think it would be a catastrophe if Russia were to be ejected from the Council of Europe. As you said correctly, as a Russian citizen, the closest place I have to find justice is at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. I have that right because I'm a citizen of a Council of Europe member state.
We also have the legal protections of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Putin regime, as I don't need to tell you, is ignoring the decisions of the European court and also violating key obligations under the European convention, but that's not a reason to deprive us of them at all. As somebody who has a case before the European Court of Human Rights, I can tell you it is very important.
Many prominent opponents of the Kremlin have won their cases at the European Court of Human Rights. That includes the late Boris Nemtsov, Aleksei Navalny, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and many others, including some political prisoners like Alexey Pichugin, who has two European Court of Human Rights cases against him. That's important, first of all because nothing is permanent, and Mr. Putin and his regime are not forever. When things change, those decisions will of course be implemented.
Second, I cannot tell you how important it is to know that the law is on our side, and not because that's what we think but because there is a decision from the highest court of law in Europe telling us that is the case. Frankly, I think there could be nothing worse than ejecting Russia from the Council of Europe and leaving 140 million people without the protections of the European convention and the European Court of Human Rights.
The second part of my answer would be that I think that the decision to restore the full rights of the so-called parliamentary delegation of Russia to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a very flawed decision. For many years—long before Crimea by the way—many of us have been advocating for the suspension of the voting rights of the so-called Russian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly, not because they represent Russia but because they do not represent Russia.
Astonishingly, if you read the reports from the Council of Europe itself going back two decades, you will find that every single national election in Russia since the year 2003 has been ruled as neither free nor fair nor democratic by the Council of Europe itself. The last time we had something close to a free and fair election was in 2000, almost 20 years ago. On the one hand, the Council of Europe has said that the elections are not free or fair. On the other hand, they have accepted the results of those fake elections and those representatives “elected” in them as the bona fide representatives of the Russian people. To me there's no logic to this.
On a more specific note, in two weeks' time, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will hold its summer session in Strasbourg. That will be the session where the Russian delegation will most likely return and take up their seats again. That will also be the session where a parliamentarian from Lithuania, Emanuelis Zingeris, who's the Council of Europe special rapporteur on the case of Boris Nemtsov's assassination and the investigation into it, will be presenting his report on the Nemtsov case, which he has spent the last two years preparing.
The Russian delegation has refused any kind of co-operation with this report. They have forbidden him to enter the country. They have ignored his requests, his phone calls and his messages, and when he physically went to a post office and sent a letter to the Russian Parliament, the letter was returned to him with a stamp from the Russian postal office reading “unknown address.” I'm not making this up. That's going to be in the Council of Europe report.
I think that condition number one, before even talking about the return of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, will be the full and unequivocal co-operation with the Zingeris report on the Boris Nemtsov case. Unfortunately, that is not happening.