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French lawmakers coming to Crimea not official delegation — Russian lawmaker

July 22, 2015, 16:08 UTC+3 MOSCOW

French lawmakers led by Thierry Mariani are visiting Crimea as private citizens, not state officials

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© ITAR-TASS/Mikhail Pochuev

MOSCOW, July 22. /TASS/. French lawmakers’ forthcoming visit to Russia’s Black Sea Crimean peninsula is "an example of responsible parliamentary diplomacy", a senior Russian lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council upper house Foreign Affairs committee, wrote on his Facebook page: "I wouldn't call it [the parliamentarians’ visit to Crimea] a breakthrough, given that deputies and senators are coming in a personal capacity and not as part of an official delegation.

"But this is definitely the first step towards a breakthrough since neither the French National Assembly nor the European Parliament, nor PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], nor OSCE PA [Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] can ignore the delegation’s position," he added.

Kosachev said he believed French delegates would face huge pressure, exerted by "other French parliamentarians on counterparts who have shown an example of responsible parliamentary diplomacy", "by the Elysee Palace on the National Assembly, which has failed to ensure consistency in foreign policy and by Western countries on France, which fails to ensure unity in the ranks of an anti-Russian coalition."

"Everything is predictable but nothing is tragic," Kosachev said, urging "other foreign politicians to summon up the political courage and follow the French lead."

A parliamentary delegation from France will arrive for a two-day visit to the Crimean peninsula on July 23. The delegation includes more than 10 members of the French National Assembly and the Senate. During their visit, French lawmakers are expected to meet Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov and chairman of Crimea's State Council Vladimir Konstantinov.

National Assembly deputy Thierry Mariani, who leads the French delegation, told Russian Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday that parliamentarians had not consulted with the Ukrainian authorities before the trip. "French deputies are free to make their own decisions," Mariani said.

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 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 for purposes of logistics.

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