Russia suspends role in Europe's human rights watchdog after being stripped of vote

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STRASBOURG, France — The head of Russia's delegation to Europe's human rights watchdog says the country will suspend its involvement after losing its right to vote.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Wednesday voted to renew sanctions against Russia, which includes stripping its voting rights, over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The decision is expected to stand until at least April. In response, Alexei Pushkov told Russian television late Wednesday that the Russian delegation was "walking out of the Parliamentary Assembly" and will not participate in its sessions until the end of the year.

Pushkov said this could damage dialogue among European parliaments, but wrote on Twitter that this "doesn't mean the self-isolation of Russia."

One of the main sticking points for Russia is the demand to free Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian air force officer who is on hunger strike in a Russian prison. Savchenko was elected into the Ukrainian parliament last year and was officially dispatched to the parliamentary asembly.

The assembly on Wednesday called on Russia to release her "within 24 hours and to ensure her return to Ukraine or to hand her over to a third country."

Savchenko is awaiting trial on charges of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists during the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Her lawyer says she has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 13.

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