The Finnish government denied several Russian lawmakers visas to attend the Parliamentary Assembly (PA) of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) that all European Union (EU) states are expected to send representatives to this week .
Nearly 300 MPs from 50 countries will take part in the OSCE’s annual session between July 5-9.
Russian Parliament Speaker Sergei Naryshkin was also among the Russian OSCE delegation on the EU travel ban list.
After being denied visas, the entire Russian delegation decided not to go to Helsinki, where the session is taking place, between July 5 and 9.
The European Union, the United States and a number of other countries have imposed sanctions on Russia because of its annexation of Crimea and alleged support for separatist rebels in Ukraine.
Astrid Thors, the OSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities, told the Finnish broadcaster Yle that she feels bad that Russia couldn’t participate in the OSCE’s parliamentary assembly this week.
Thors also expressed disappointment that much-needed dialogue between Russia and other OSCE members couldn't take place.
Finnish MP Ilkka Kanerva, who currently leads the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, said “The decision… was made after Finland has made notification to almost every single EU country if Finland should allow the blacklist people to enter… Member countries of the EU, they didn't want to accept it and Finland was obliged to take this decision. The decision was not made by us.”
Kanerva has also stressed that the OSCE PA needs to engage in dialogue with the EU to ensure that parliamentarians from all member countries are allowed to freely take part in the organisation's sessions.
"We need to address the EU to reconsider the rules so the OSCE PA can continue promote a political dialogue and mutual contacts… So that parliamentarians can get together from every member country free."
Speaking on the issue, the only attendee of the Russian Delegation to the OSCE PA, Special Representative on Anti-Terrorism Nikolay Kovalev, said that "Of course this affects relations between Finland and Russia."
"Finland has violated the spirit of the first CSCE [Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe] meeting 40 years ago, and the traditions agreed then. This is a bad precedent, as now any country can justify refusing to allow somebody to enter," Kovalev added.
According to Alexey Pushkov, who is the head of the foreign-affairs committee in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament is considering possible economic sanctions against Finland.