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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Welcomes Council Accession

President Boris Yeltsin on Friday welcomed Russia's accession to the Council of Europe, while a top international human rights organization slammed the council for ignoring the Russian troops' brutality in Chechnya.


"We consider this decision [to accept Russia as member of the council] as evidence of support of our country's course of profound reforms in every sphere of social and political life," Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei Medvedev said in a statement Friday. "Europe trusts the Russian leadership's line aimed at building a modern law-governed state, a civil society and a market economy."


Yeltsin praised Russia's admission, saying, according to Interfax, that "Russia could not be kept out of this organization not only because it is located in Europe, but because it is the bridge between Europe and Asia."


Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky also saw Russia's admission as a gesture of support for Yeltsin. "This is bad for me. I'm not happy. This will help Mr. Yeltsin," he told Reuters at the Russian consulate in Strasbourg after the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly Thursday overwhelmingly approved Russia's four-year-old bid for full membership.


During the acceptance debate, a number of delegations, many representing Russia's ex-Soviet members, pointed out that Russia's human rights record was not up to the council's standards.


On Friday, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, a group with a long history of protesting rights abuses in Russia, issued a statement saying that a country that allowed enormous civilian casualties in the Chechen war was not worthy of council membership.


"It is entirely inappropriate for Europe's foremost human rights body to admit as a member a country whose government has so repeatedly and so recently shown scorn for civilian life," the statement said. "Blithely admitting Russia, with no conditions attached, will reward Russia's two-year backlash against human rights and make a mockery of the Council of Europe's standards."


Some conditions were attached to Russia's admission. Moscow will now have to sign and ratify a number of Council of Europe conventions, including one abolishing capital punishment. Russia has also promised to punish those responsible for the human rights violations in Chechnya.


However, the Council of Europe has no power to punish Russia for defaulting on these promises. Russia, the 39th member of the council, will be called upon to provide 15.6 percent of the group's annual budget, which stood at $240 million in 1995.