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Experts say EU officials should rather see situation in Crimea with their own eyes

July 31, 2015, 21:33 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsin

MOSCOW, July 31. /TASS/. It would make much sense for EU officials to follow the French parliament members, who visited Russia’s Republic of Crimea last week, and to assess the situation there with their own eyes, Russian experts polled by TASS said on Friday.

Only after that personal familiarization, it would be appropriate to mull an expansion of anti-Russian sanctions or the broadening of the scope of countries that support these sanctions, the experts said.

The French magazine "Valeurs actuelles" on Thursday published an article titled "The Crimean Premiere". It is an account of the trip to Crimea, which a group of French senators and deputies made on July 23 and July 24.

"People are living, working, shopping, spending their vacations and generally happy they have managed to avoid the social, political or military tensions reigning in Ukraine," deputy Yannick Moreau said summing up his impressions.

The author of the report, Raphael Stainville said the presence of the military and police in the places the delegation visited was insignificant. "Residents of Crimea don’t resemble the ones who’ve found themselves under foreign occupation somehow," he wrote. "On the contrary they expressed delight over their current ability to live in peace after they had made a choice in favor of Russia."

The weekly recalled that the President of the French National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, has sent a rather menacing letter to members of the parliamentary delegation, calling their trip to Crimea a violation of international law. Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) said on Thursday the deputies and senators who had visited Crimea were barred from entering Ukraine for three years.

"And why are they so scared of our using this opportunity to look at the situation with our own eyes?" the member of parliament Gerome Lambert asked.

On Tuesday, members of parliaments in Italy, Hungary and France said they would like to visit the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. On Thursday, Swiss MP Andreas Gross, the leader of the Social-Democratic Caucus at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe made known his willingness to set up a PACE group for visiting Crimea

French MEP Nadine Morano also voiced readiness to go to Crimea.

Simultaneously, another seven non-EU countries said on Thursday they were joining sanctions against Crimea and Sevastopol. A statement issued by the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini said these countries were Albania, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, and Ukraine.

Sergey Markov, the director of the Institute for Political Research, said the EU countries introducing or prolonging sanctions against Crimea or Sevastopol or forcing the candidates for accession to support these restrictive measures were interested in a full informational blockade of the Crimean Peninsula.

"The EU’s objective is to deny the Europeans an access to truth about what’s happening in Crimea, about the majority of local people rejoicing at the reunification with Russia," Markov said. "On this background, there is absolutely no informational blockade of Ukraine in Crimea."

"This month, like for many long years every July before that, I took participants in a summer student camp to the Crimean town of Foros," he said. "We watched Ukrainian TV channels freely there. Cars with Ukrainian number plates are also cruising the peninsula from end to end. One can see signposts and banners in Ukrainian and no one paints them over with dyes because they don’t bother anyone."

"The level of freedom in Crimea today is a sequence higher than in Ukraine," Markov said.

An expansion of the scope of countries supporting the sanctions against Crimea and Sevastopol came across as the Brussels’ self-styled reaction to the breakthrough of the informational blockade the French deputies and senators had achieved.

"It’s quite noteworthy that a modest enough delegation produced so much noise in Europe and caused an uproar in the EU - just because the French MPs shed light on the truth about Crimea and triggered a chain reaction in the form of a desire of other European politicians to visit the peninsular republic and to give an unbiased assessment to its reunification with Russia," Markov said.

"It would be nice if Brussels organized its own delegation to a familiarization trip to Crimea but this is something out of the realm of science fiction at the moment because Brussels doesn’t want truth about Crimea," he said.

The French delegation’s visit and the intention of politicians from Italy, Hungary and PACE to follow them in the footsteps cannot influence Brussels towards a change of course on Crimea but constant dropping wears away a stone, said Konstantin Zatulin, the director of the Institute for the studies of CIS countries.

He returned from Crimea on Thursday and shared his impressions about the things he had seen there.

"The previously nasty airport in Simferopol (the Crimean capital city — TASS) looks like a European air hub now," Zatulin said. "Last’s years mess at the ferry crossing of the Kerch Strait has been cleared away without a trace because eleven ferryboats are functioning like clockwork."

"As for the Crimean residents, they don’t have a bit of any doubts as regards their decision to reunite with Russia," he said.

Zatulin admitted Crimea was faced with a pretty big number of difficulties, like a full reorganization of the agencies of power or the problems created by Ukraine that was shutting down freshwater supplies regularly - a practice that had compelled Crimean agribusiness to stop producing rice.

Also, shortages of electricity were felt, Zatulin said.

"A lot is being done to improve the situation, for instance, the current construction of gas-turbine power generating stations and the forthcoming construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait," he said.

"By 2018, all infrastructural problems in Crimea should be resolved in contravention of the pressure in the form of sanctions that Brussels is building up," Zatulin said.

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