Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipil’, left, and Foreign Minister Timo Soini attend at the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Council of Europe’s annual meeting in Helsinki, Finland Friday, May 17, 2019. (Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva via AP)

MOSCOW – The Council of Europe has gathered for a ministerial meeting that could restore Russia's voting rights in the continent's main human rights watchdog.

The council suspended Russia's voting rights after it annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all of the world views as illegal. The Kremlin then stopped paying its membership fees in protests.

The watchdog is widely expected to decide on Friday whether to keep the suspension in place or restore Russia's voting rights.

Ukraine's foreign minister on Thursday unexpectedly canceled his attendance at the meeting in Finland in a sign that Ukraine is expecting Russia's reinstatement.

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