Parliament group regrets Russian speaker's no show

AP News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2015 8:16 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Inter-Parliamentary Union expressed regret Friday that the speaker of Russia's upper house of Parliament will not be attending a world congress at the United Nations next week, apparently because of issues with her visa to the United States.

IPU Secretary-General Martin Chungong told a news conference that the organization learned officially Friday morning that speaker Valentina Matvienko would not be attending the congress, which opens Monday.

Matvienko is under U.S. sanctions in connection with Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The sanctions do not bar officials from U.N. events, but the IPU only has observer status at the world organization.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the visa issued to Matvienko, chair of the Russian Federation Council, barred her from attending IPU events.

Igor Morozov, a member of Russia's upper house, told the state news agency RIA-Novosti on Wednesday that he was calling for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his deputies to be placed on Moscow's sanctions list in retaliation.

Chungong said "the ideal situation would be for every parliament to be able to attend the IPU conference here without any restrictions."

Up until Thursday, he said, the IPU was expecting Matvienko to come but she now will miss the congress which will focus on implementing new U.N. development goals to be adopted at a summit of world leaders in late September.

"Of course we regret this fact because we think this is a forum where all members of parliament, through the principle of democracy, could exercise their freedom of expression."

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby wouldn't discuss the case Wednesday except to note that Matvieno is under U.N. sanctions and it abides by its U.N. responsibilities.