Vienna yesterday offered the world the unfortunate image of a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation holed up in the hotel, while the Russian delegation attended the OSCE winter assembly with the acquiescence of the Austrian authorities, who in the interests of the neutrality of the Alpine country ignored the request made at the beginning of the month by more than twenty member countries and issued the visas of entrance to Russian parliamentarians. Russia has sent nine delegates, six of whom are on the EU’s sanctions lists.
Under the leadership of Pyotr Tolstoy, Russian lawmakers have set foot on European Union soil for the first time since the start of the invasion, unlike the OSCE assemblies held in Poland and the United Kingdom last year, countries that did not allow them entrance. “We have dignity, honor and we are not puppets in a Russian show”said the head of the Ukrainian delegation, Mykyta Poturarev, who waited until the last minute for Austria to reverse its decision.
Frustrated and from the hotel, Poturarev denounced that the OSCE in its current state is “dysfunctional”, in reference to the fact that Russia has repeatedly vetoed the new budget, and called for a reform of the international organization and the creation of a “mechanism to enable the OSCE to respond to fundamental violations of the Helsinki Protocol, a flexible and effective mechanism that should not be tailored to Russia or Belarus but rather influence countries that are taking a potentially dangerous path.”
In his opening speech, the Chairman of the Austrian National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, proclaimed “our undivided solidarity with the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people”, in the presence of the Russian delegates, and also stressed that “it is the duty of the members of the OSCE will not close the door on diplomacy’.
The president of the Parliamentary Assembly, Margareta Cederfelt, called for a minute of silence for the victims of the war and criticized that the Russian aggression “violates all the principles of international law.” The current OSCE Chairman, North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani, for his part, condemned the “unprovoked attack”, but none of these gestures were enough for the US congressmen, the Democrat Steve Cohen and the Republican Joe Wilson, who disgraced the hosts by the fact that they have ignored the letter sent by the parliaments of Poland, Lithuania, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Countries Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine and Great Britain, asking that Ukrainians be spared the drink of sitting at the same table as the aggressors or otherwise be excluded from the meeting.
The Austrian Foreign Ministry refers to the OSCE Headquarters Agreement, which obliges Austria to ensure that members of delegations from participating States are not hindered in their travels to and from OSCE Headquarters. “This means that there is a clear obligation under international law to allow delegates to enter the country,” a spokesperson explained.
For practical purposes, more meetings and talks took place yesterday in the hotel than in the OSCE headquarters. «An organization must be able to defend its fundamental principles, values and rules. If you can’t, what is the point of your existence? What is the point of being a member of such an organization? », Poturarev repeated to his successive interlocutors, « the Russians have brought their propaganda show here. and they use all the venerable parliamentarians, who are here as audience puppets in their puppet show’.
To the organization’s argument, about keeping the door to dialogue open, Poturarev replied that “dialogue did not prevent this war and that is why we want reform… Russia does not want dialogue at this time, they will only be ready when President Vladimir Putin or someone else in the Kremlin understands that they have lost this war.”