VIENNA (AP) — Ukraine has informed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that it won’t attend the next meeting of its parliamentary assembly if sanctioned Russian lawmakers are allowed to participate.
The meeting is scheduled to take place in Vienna on Feb. 23-24, during the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Mykyta Poturaiev, wrote, “We do not find ourselves in a position to attend the winter meeting in case of Russia’s participation.”
The letter, which was dated Feb. 10 and addressed to Parliamentary Assembly President Margareta Cederfelt, noted that Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine was widely supported by Russian politicians, including members of the Russian delegation to the OSCE.
“We have no doubts that the Russian delegation will use the OSCE … for justification of the aggression against my country as well as for whitewashing numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Ukrainian people,” Poturaiev wrote.
He suggested the meeting’s postponement “to preserve the integrity of the assembly,” which is a separate body consisting of 323 parliamentarians from the OSCE’s 57 member states,
The Vienna-based OSCE was created during the Cold War as a platform for dialogue between East and West. The group has a wide-ranging mission, including peace, human rights, arms control and other security issues. The invasion of Ukraine has complicated its work, with many Western countries joining Ukraine in protesting Russia’s participation.
The Austrian government has granted visas to the Russian delegates to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly even though they are under European Union sanctions and despite protests from 20 countries including Britain, France and Canada. The Austrians said as host nation they were obliged to grant visas to representatives from all OSCE member states.
After a meeting with members of the assembly and Ukrainian parliament speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk on Tuesday, Cederfelt decided to go ahead with next week’s meeting as planned, given the rules of the assembly which say the group’s winter meeting needs to take place during the first two months of the year.
Nat Parry, a spokesperson for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, said it’s “too late” to postpone the gathering.
Lithuania is so far the only other country to have announced publicly that it will boycott the meeting. Other nations are still weighing their options. Latvia will decide Thursday, Katrina Kaktina, the country’s ambassador to the OSCE, told the AP.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine