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MOSCOW, July 21. /TASS/. A trip by French lawmakers to Russia, which includes visiting the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, will turn over a new leaf in Russian-European dialogue on the Crimean issue, a senior deputy of the Russian lower house of parliament said on Tuesday.
Leonid Slutsky, chairing the State Duma's committee on Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs (CIS), Eurasian Integration and Ties with Compatriots, told journalists: "A delegation of more than 10 members of the French National Assembly and the Senate led by [National Assembly deputy] Thierry Mariani will arrive in Moscow on July 22. On July 23, after meetings at the State Duma [with Speaker Sergey Naryshkin], it will travel to Crimea."
"This will be the first large delegation of Western European politicians and parliamentarians since ‘the Crimean spring’ [when the republic of Crimea seceded from Ukraine and later merged with Russia]," said Slutsky, who coordinates a deputy group on ties with the French parliament, adding that: "I am sure this visit will turn over a new leaf in the inter-parliamentary dialogue between Russia and Europe on the Crimean issue."
The deputy noted that the French delegation was due to meet Crimea’s leadership — the head of the republic, Sergey Aksyonov, and the chairman of the State Council, Vladimir Konstantinov.
Crimea’s State Council said earlier on Tuesday that a parliamentary delegation from France would pay a two-day visit to the peninsula on July 23-24. Besides holding talks with Aksyonov and Konstantinov, French lawmakers are expected to travel to Crimea’s famous resort city of Yalta on the Black Sea coast, where they will be able to talk with locals and tourists. The program of the visit also features a trip to Sevastopol, a Russian federal city and home to Russia's Black Sea fleet. Members of the French delegation will see several museums there.
Crimea, where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
In mid-March last year, Crimea rejoined 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 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 as a gift.