Ukraine says European observers not welcome at July polls

Kiev (AFP) –


Ukraine on Tuesday announced it is withdrawing its invitation to monitors from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to observe elections later this month, in protest against Russia's reinstatement in the body.

Russian delegates had been stripped of their voting rights in the pan-European rights body in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine, but last week were allowed to return over strong objections from Kiev.

Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy on Tuesday said he signed a letter to PACE president Liliane Maury-Pasquier saying its monitors were no longer welcome at the parliamentary elections to be held on July 21.

"Representatives of an aggressor country, Russia, cannot be among international observers; they will be agents of a hybrid war rather than observers," Parubiy wrote on his Facebook page.

"Any influence by Russia on Ukrainian elections, by any means, is not acceptable."

Ukraine, together with Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia had unsuccessfully tried to block Russia's return to PACE, but it was approved by a vote of 116 in favour to 62 against.

Russia's comeback is the first relaxation of the international sanctions that were imposed on Moscow for seizing Crimea.

Ukraine's snap parliamentary polls were called by the country's recently-elected President Volodymyr Zelensky in a controversial move aimed at replacing lawmakers who he says no longer enjoy public support.

The legal status of Zelensky's move to dissolve parliament was initially disputed, but the Constitutional Court ruled that it is legitimate.

The Council of Europe on Tuesday confirmed to AFP that Russia paid its participant contribution of 33 million euros for the year 2019.