Russian parliamentarian calls US ban from conference illegal

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The speaker of Russia's upper house of Parliament denounced U.S. sanctions banning her from attending a world conference as illegal and took aim at America's global status, telling lawmakers by video link that the days of U.S. superpower domination are over.

Valentina Matvienko, who leads the Federation Council, also blamed today's refugee and migrant crisis in Europe and the emergence of the Islamic State extremist group on "the irresponsible policy of a number of Western countries and their allies."

She is one of seven Russian government officials targeted by U.S. sanctions, including a travel ban, as a result of President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The sanctions do not bar officials from U.N. events, but the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament is organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which only has observer status at the United Nations.

Matvienko told fellow parliament speakers from over 120 countries that she deeply regretted not being able to attend.

The U.S. offered her a visa to go to the United Nations, but barred her from attending the parliamentarians' conference. She said the U.S. actions were not only illegal but "gross violations of the norms of international law and the principles of democracy and freedom of speech."

"Sanctions against parliamentarians elected by the citizens of their country because of their political views — and this in the 21st century — is nothing other than political persecution," she said.

Matvienko said the three-day conference is taking place at a time when there is a shift to "a multipolar world order," accompanied by "drastic crises and bloody conflicts, counter-revolutions and coup d'etats with horrendous humanitarian catastrophes."

"The old model of a unipolar world order based on the domination by one power or a group of countries has been confined to the past," she said.

But the U.S. and Western countries are making every effort to try to preserve it by openly pressuring other countries, "subjecting them to unilateral sanctions and using armed force against them."

"As a result, terrorism and political extremism are raising their heads, entire regions are being plunged into chaos, holy sites are being destroyed, (and) women, old men and children are being killed," Matvienko said.

"Nevertheless," she said, "a new model of the world is confidently making its way forward."

IPU President Saber Chowdhury expressed disappointment that Matvienko had been barred from attending the conference, saying the organization strongly believes in dialogue "which regardless of differences is fundamental to democracy and international cooperation."

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby wouldn't discuss the case Wednesday except to note that Matvienko remains under U.S. sanctions.

The conference, which takes place every five years, is focusing on implementation of new U.N. development goals to be adopted at a summit of world leaders in late September to combat poverty and tackle climate change.

IPU spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said all parliament speakers were invited to the conference, but both John Boehner, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the U.S. Senate, said they were unable to attend.

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