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MOSCOW, September 14. /TASS/. It is too early to say the Western blockade of Crimea is giving in, but the ever more frequent visits to the peninsula by Western politicians (albeit oppositional), as well as culture workers and athletes are a clear hint the information background in the West is changing, Russian experts say.
The head of the Crimean Republic, Sergey Aksyonov, has drafted a message to foreign cultural workers and show business and sports celebrities to invite to Crimea those who would like to obtain Russian citizenship. "We will be only glad, if an equivalent of the United States’ Beverly Hills will emerge in Crimea with the passage of time," the daily Izvestia quotes Aksyonov as saying. Those celebrities who will agree to advertise and promote the region will be able to get plots of land there for free or at big discounts, the Crimean authorities have promised.
In his message Aksyonov recalls that "over the past month alone applications for Russian citizenship have been filed by world level ‘stars’ - from US heavyweight world boxing champion Roy Jones Jr., leader of the US rock group Limp Bizkit, Fred Durst, and French actor Samy Naceri. Earlier, a Russian passport was granted to French film actor Gerard Depardieu.
Although the Western countries have not recognized Crimea’s re-unification with Crimea, European politicians were frequent guests in Crimea of late. Last week, Italy’s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who is the leader of the Forza Italia (Forward, Italy) political party, paid a private visit to Crimea of his own accord. In Sevastopol, he with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Japan’s former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, was a trailblazer in that respect. He made a trip to Crimea back last March. At the end of June a delegation of ten French legislators from Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-of-centre party under Thierry Mariani traveled to Crimea at its own initiative. Mariani did not rule out that Sarkozy himself might decide to see Russia’s newly-reincorporated region with his own eyes.
Oppositional politicians in Italy, Hungary, Germany and Poland have been saying they would like to tour the peninsula. The head of the political group of Socialists at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Andreas Gross, has mentioned his plans for arranging for a trip by a large mission of legislators from various European countries to the peninsula.
"These visits are of great importance," the deputy dean of the world economy and world politics department at the Higher School of Economics, Andrey Suzdaltsev, has told TASS. "The Russian leadership has been exerting great efforts to ensure some prominent personalities from Europe’s political world be permanently present in Crimea. They don’t have to be top tier celebrities. Naturally, oppositional figures agree to come more often than others to use these visits for their internal political purposes. But that does suit us, too."
Suzdaltsev believes that in this way the Western public mind is getting used to the thought Crimea is not some annexed territory. "The world is being persuaded into agreement Crimea is Russian land, which it has been for nearly 250 years. This is a deliberate policy, and it should be welcomed."
Assistant professor Sergey Bespalov, of the presidential academy RANEPA, warns it is too early to say the West has changed its policy regarding Crimea. "At the same time the importance of these trips should not be underestimated, because the information environment around the territory is really changing.
The mass media in the West cannot but give certain coverage to these events, Bespalov said. "Willy-nilly Western reporters do come to Crimea and they don’t just mention the very instance European politicians have visited this Russian territory, but also describe the real state of affairs there. Many of them do that rather impartially. At least they tell their audiences that there is no glaring crisis in Crimea and the people support the changes that have taken place there over the past eighteen months. And so on and so forth."
The mass media exercise certain influence on the public opinion, Bespalov said.
"If the attitude of the public at large begins to change, the position of western political elites, at least that regarding the Crimean issue, is getting less impregnable," he added.
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