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MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. A number of European high-level delegations will travel to Russia’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in the near future, a senior deputy of the Russian lower house of parliament said on Friday.
Leonid Slutsky, chairing the State Duma's committee on Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs (CIS), Eurasian Integration and Ties with Compatriots, told a meeting at the State Duma: "A number of western European high-level parliamentary delegations will visit Crimea soon."
"The situation in Ukraine is still being used as a bridgehead for scapegoating our country in global and media space," Slutsky said. "However, we manage to find effective means of parliamentary diplomacy to counter this wave of anti-Russian aggression."
Slutsky recalled that a group of French lawmakers travelled to the Crimean peninsula in late July, in a visit which helped "the world to learn the truth about what is happening in Russia’s Crimea". Following the visit, Western media stopped publishing stories "about how the Crimean population is suffering and about an ongoing war there", said the Russian lawmaker, who accompanied the French delegation on their trip.
On Thursday, Slutsky spoke about the possibility of a Crimea visit by Italian lawmakers in October or November. "Visits of European politicians have become possible since French deputies told the world the truth about what’s going on in Crimea after its reunification with Russia," he said, adding that the French delegation "broke the ice of the European media lies about the life in Russia’s Crimea and nature of the Crimean referendum".
Ten parliamentarians from France arrived for a two-day visit to the Crimean peninsula on July 23. The delegation included members of the French National Assembly and the Senate. During their visit, French lawmakers met Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov and chairman of Crimea's State Council Vladimir Konstantinov.
Besides holding talks with the Crimean leadership, parliamentarians travelled to Crimea’s famous resort city of Yalta on the Black Sea coast. The program of the visit also featured a trip to Sevastopol, a Russian federal city and home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.
Crimea, where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognise the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
In mid-March last year, Crimea re-joined Russia following a referendum. More than 82% of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96% backed splitting from Ukraine and spoke in favour of reuniting with Russia.
Results of the referendum were celebrated by many Crimeans but the vote was widely criticised by Western leaders and at the United Nations.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, when Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean region, along with Sevastopol, to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.