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More Europeans come to see what’s new in Russia’s Crimea

October 29, 2015, 18:58 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
Sanda Raskovic Ivic, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, visiting Crimea's State Council

Sanda Raskovic Ivic, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, visiting Crimea's State Council

© Alexei Pavlishak/TASS

MOSCOW, October 29. /TASS/. More Western politicians have been visiting Russia’s Crimea in defiance of protests from the Ukrainian authorities in Kiev. These trips by the opposition-minded European politicians, legislators and former leaders reflect the latest changes in the state of public mind, which is getting bored with the standoff with Russia and denial of obvious facts of life, analysts say. The recognition of the very fact Crimea is part of Russia will not happen overnight, of course, but certain movement in this direction has already begun.

A delegation of politicians from Serbia has just paid a three-day visit to Crimea to express support for Crimea’s people in their decision to reunite with Russia. The group included representatives of the oppositional Democratic Party and Serbian patriotic movement Dveri (Doors), which recently declared they had united to form a Patriotic Bloc. They held meetings with their counterparts in the regional legislature and with Crimean executive officials.

The Serbian delegation was far from the first one that has travelled to Crimea this year. Although most European countries have refused to recognize the peninsula’s reunification with Russia to this day Crimea last July welcomed a delegation of French legislators from Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-of-center party under Thierry Mariani. Oppositional Italian parliament members were next to visit Crimea. The head of the socialists in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Andreas Gross, unveiled plans for arranging a trip to Crimea by a large mission of parliament members from different European countries."

At the beginning of September the leader of the Italian political party Forza, Italia, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi travelled to Crimea at his own initiative. In the port city of Sevastopol he was received by President Vladimir Putin. Japan’s former prime minster Yukio Hatoyama was a trailblazer in that respect. He visited Crimea back last March.

All these visits bring Europe closer to tacit, if not official recognition, of the peninsula as part of Russia, says the director of the political studies centre at the University of Finance under the Russian government, Pavel Sapin. "I would not say that this visit was a breakthrough," the portal Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press) quotes him as saying. "But this is a long stride forward. We are aware that so far Crimea has seen visits not by mainstream political forces, but by groups and figures that remain on the periphery. It would be wrong to regard these as marginal, though, either. That representatives of political parties, although not large ones, do come to Crimea is a step forward."

Salin believes that Russia’s task is to "mothball" the problem of Crimea in relations with Russia to ensure the question should not be brought up at all. Such visits do work for achieving this goal.

"The 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. In this way the Western public mind is getting accustomed to the idea that Crimea is not an annexed territory. "The world is being persuaded that Crimea is Russian land, and it is a systematic policy," he added.

"From the standpoint of historical perspective the recognition of the legitimacy of Crimea’s reunification with Russia is inevitable, Professor Andrey Manoilo, of the Political Sciences Department at the Moscow State University has told TASS. "The West will come to that sooner or later. They are well aware of that themselves, because even from the standpoint of international legal procedure Crimea’s accession to Russia is beyond doubt. It was an exact replica of how the Falkland Islands entered the United Kindgom. That procedure was recognized as a precedent by Britain and other Western countries. This explains why they haven’t brought up the international and legal aspect of the issue. But when western politicians criticize Crimea’s unification with Russia, as a rule they put the emphasis on emotions that have no arguments to rely on."

Legislators, oppositional ones in the first place, enjoy a far greater degree of freedom in the Western world, while the European leaders and their entourage are bound hand and foot, Manoilo said. "They are under colossal pressures from the United States. The Americans keep many of these leaders literally ‘hooked.’ It’s enough to recall the tapping of Angela Merkel’s phones."

True, oppositional politicians may be using these visits for electioneering purposes, Manoilo said. "It is nakedly clear that the EU population is tired of the standoff with Russia. Europe is increasingly angry over the losses that the European countries have sustained as a result of sanctions. The public opinion in the European countries is changing and the elites will be unable to ignore this."

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