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MOSCOW, July 30. /TASS/. Visits of European parliamentarians to Crimea will help the EU understand the real situation in this Russian region and will promote de-escalation of the political crisis around Crimea, a top Russian lawmaker told TASS on Thursday.
Alexey Pushkov, Chairman of the international affairs committee at the State Duma lower house of parliament and head of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said that "European parliamentarians’ trips to Crimea are important because it signifies a new, more democratic approach to the Crimean residents’ sentiment and expression of will."
Earlier on Thursday, member of the Swiss parliament, leader of the Social Democratic faction at PACE Andreas Gross said he intended to form a PACE group for visiting Crimea. Pushkov said the State Duma members would consider the possibility of such a visit, but within the framework of the national parliaments, not PACE.
Pushkov said that official Europe has actually denied the right to independence to the population of Crimea in the conditions of a coup d’etat in Ukraine. "And the European deputies who have already visited or intend to visit Crimea are going there to communicate with the local people and get their own idea of what the people think and feel," the Russian lawmaker said.
Pushkov said that the sentiment of almost 2.5 million Crimean residents has been factually neglected by the European policy chiefs. "They regard Crimea solely in the contest of Kiev’s position and the Ukrainian crisis. But they have absolutely forgotten that there are 2.5 million people there who also have the right to express their opinion and the right to self-determination," he said. In this sense, those European parliamentarians who have visited Crimea "carry the traditional democratic values, because Europe has always insisted that it is necessary to consider not only the governments’ opinion, but also the peoples’ view," the Russian lawmaker added.
On July 23-24, a delegation of French parliamentarians visited Crimea. This is the first visit of West European parliamentarians to Crimea and Sevastopol since March 2014, when the majority of Crimean residents voted to join Russia at a referendum. The French parliamentarians’ group was headed by MP Thierry Mariani - a representative of the centre-right Republicans Party of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The visit has been condemned by Kiev and caused a fierce debate in Paris.