MOSCOW, July 22. /TASS/. Member of the French National Assembly Thierry Mariani who will head the French delegation during its visit to Crimea, has told reporters about the aims and the agenda of the visit.
"We arrive in Moscow in the evening on Wednesday, on Thursday we will meet with the State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin and then we will head for Yalta and Sevastopol. The agenda includes meetings with the local authorities [including chairman of the Crimean State Council Vladimir Konstantinov, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov and governor of Sevastopol Sergey Menyailo] and the population. We want to understand how people live there," the parliamentarian told the Kommersant daily.
"The visit will have its "French" part as well. In Sevastopol we will visit the Alliance Francaise cultural center and the French military cemetery [the burial place of soldiers who perished during the siege of Sevastopol in 1854-1855]. This is the largest French cemetery abroad, somewhat unkempt recently because of the political events," he added.
Answering a question on whether the members of the delegation consulted with the Ukrainian authorities before the visit, Mariani said, "No, we didn’t. The French Foreign Ministry also said the idea of such a trip would not be supported. But French parliamentarians are free to make decisions."
He noted, though, that the visit was "a personal initiative, not the official stance of the French government." "We were invited by the Russian Peace Foundation [Chairman of the Foundation’s Board is head of the State Duma CIS Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky]. The initiative was supported by the Franco-Russian Dialogue Association whose chairmen are head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin and me. Simultaneously, it was supported by the Russian State Duma - through the inter-parliamentary contacts," Mariani said.