Russian will quit the Council of Europe voluntarily if its opponents in the association insist on its expulsion, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday, TASS reported.
"I don’t think presence in the Council of Europe is more important for Russia than it is for European countries. It is my firm position. We joined the Council of Europe being convinced that it is geared to ensure a common European universal legal and humanitarian space," he said in an interview with the EuroNews television channel.
"Those who have undermined this space through illegitimate actions that violate the Charter and striped the Russian delegation of equal rights with other delegations are aware of what they are doing. I am sure of that. If they want to expel Russia from the Council of Europe, we will not give them such a pleasure. We will quit it voluntarily," he stressed.
According to the Russian top diplomat, Council of Europe officials who will be elected with Russia’s say will be illegitimate for Moscow. "The Council of Europe will elect its new Secretary General next June. If we are denied participation in the elections of these officials, a right we enjoy under the Council of Europe’s Charter, they [officials] will be illegitimate for us," he said. "So, I hope very much that all of our partners, first of all those who have caused this whole mess, who seek to punish people’s representatives for Crimea’s free expression of will, I hope they will ultimately see the gravity of the situation and understand the responsibility they are undertaking."