HELSINKI — The Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) passed a resolution at its summit meeting in Helsinki Thursday roundly condemning Russia's actions and military intervention in Ukraine and Crimea. The Canadian sponsored resolution secured 96 out of a total of 135 votes cast, with 32 abstentions and seven 7 votes cast against the motion.

The resolution was passed in the absence of Russian representatives at the OSCE summit, following a decision by Finland to disallow entry visas to six Russian delegates. Finland justified the decision, which has drawn threats of selective trade sanctions by Moscow against the country, by stating that all six persons are on the European Union's "travel ban" entry list.

The Canadian-sponsored resolution cited "violations of OSCE commitments and international norms by the Russian federation.". Many parliamentarians who voted against the resolution argued that it would not have been correct to support it given that the "target country" Russia was not present to defend or argue its position.

"There was a degree of polarization on this issue, but then again most parliaments are like this. The vote against Russia reflects what is a difficult overall situation," said Ilkka Kanerva, pPresident of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly (OSCEPA), which comprises parliamentarians from 57 countries covering Europe, North America the United States, Canada and Euro-Asia.

The condemnation of Russia, which was contained in the OSCEPA's 2015 Helsinki Declaration, was supported by all delegates from the host country Finland.

The 2015 Helsinki Declaration dealt also with other sensitive hot-topic issues, including Russia's actions in Ukraine, the plight of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean region, arms control, terrorism, global warming and water management.

The Declaration included a call for comprehensive legislative reform to address the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters,; an appeal for enhanced cooperation on economic and environmental issues in the Arctic,;as well as and an affirmation of the need to safeguard the rights and human dignity of migrants and refugees.

The Russia-provoked crisis in Ukraine took center centre stage in OSCEPA debates during the organization's week-long summit, which ends in Helsinki on July 10.

The absence of Russian delegates has resulted in the OSCE considering a broader new perspective under which travel ban restrictions could be relaxed in an effort to establish a dialogue with Russia covering future meetings of the organization.

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