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MOSCOW, October 1. /TASS/. Lawmakers from Russia's parliamentary lower house are ready to organize a trip to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea for a European Parliament delegation led by French MEP Nadine Morano if they express such willingness, a senior State Duma deputy said on Thursday.
Vasily Likhachev, former Russian ambassador to the European Communities, told journalists: "If they wish, we will tackle all organisational matters and create conditions for them to visit Crimea."
Likhachev did not rule out that the issue would be under discussion at a meeting of Morano and her colleagues with State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin on Friday. He also said the Russian side could extend an invitation to members of the European Parliament to visit the peninsula.
In mid-September, Leonid Slutsky, chairing the State Duma's committee on Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs (CIS), Eurasian Integration and Ties with Compatriots, said he expected a number of western European high-level parliamentary delegations to visit Crimea in the near future.
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.
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 programme of the visit also featured a trip to Sevastopol, a Russian federal city and home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.
National Assembly deputy Thierry Mariani, who led the French delegation, said the parliamentarians wanted to see with their own eyes what was happening on the peninsula.
This was the first visit of Western parliamentarians to Crimea and Sevastopol since March 2014, when Crimea reunited with Russia following a referendum.
After the trip, French deputies said the West should lift sanctions against Russia and recognise Crimea as a Russian region.
"Crimea is an absolutely peaceful region," said Claude Goasguen, a member of the French National Assembly representing Paris. "Crimea residents cannot be criticised for the fact that there is no war on their territory. They cannot be criticised for the fact that the referendum brought peace to them."
"They say that the Crimean authorities had no legal power to hold a referendum. Of course, they did! The coup in Ukraine was carried out not by Crimea residents, but by the Maidan authorities! I support peace and I am happy that it reigns in Crimea. I favour the resumption of dialogue between Russia and France," Goasguen said.
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.
The results of the referendum were widely criticized 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.