MOSCOW, July 30. /TASS/. Italian lawmakers, inspired by their French counterparts to visit Crimea, say the referendum for reunification with Russia was legitimate. They want to make sure that Europe’s stance on Crimea was biased, Manlio di Stefano, a member of the foreign policy committee at the Italian parliament's Chamber of Deputies, told the Russian Kommersant daily.
Earlier in the week, Di Stefano told the newspaper that the Italian delegation was going to enter Crimea via Russia and the objective of the tour will be to find out how people in Crimea are faring after the March 2014 referendum, which led to Crimea's reunification with Russia. Readiness to join the deputies on their trip to Russia has been expressed by Senator Gergio Divina, who represents Lega Nord political party.
"We've decided to go to Crimea and to Moscow along with members of a delegation of the Cinque Stelle (Five Star) Movement," Di Stefano said. "I'm going to contact the Russian embassy in Rome so as to get down to preparing the visit."
"As everybody knows, we have always been against illogical anti-Russian sanctions which harm Italy’s economy," he said. "So we decided to act. We will go to Russia and do what our government is incapable of - we will try to resume a peace dialogue between our countries."
During the visit the Italian delegation plans to talk to Crimeans and "to see with our own eyes what the Italian media outlets depict so biasedly."
"We believe the Crimeans have the right to self-determination and we recognise the outcome of 2014 referendum. The means to hold it might have been somewhat better but the outcome speaks for itself," the Italian lawmaker said. "Unfortunately, Europe’s stance on Crimea has remained staunch and still aims to isolate Crimea and its people."
Di Stefano said that if members of the Italian delegation were barred from entering Ukraine, they would accept it but would regard as "an insult to democracy."
Along with this, the Italian MP noted that the decision to visit Crimea provoked a sharp reaction from political parties dependent on the United States and European Union and from media outlets linked to these parties.
"But we do not bother very much," Di Stefano said expecting that the journey would be popular with voters.
"Of course, it will [be popular]," he said. "Our voters understand it is time to get rid of the anti-Russian sanctions which have cost billions of euros to us."
On July 23-24, the peninsular region and the federal city of Sevastopol located on its territory were visited by French deputies, the first ever visit of Western lawmakers since March 2014 when overwhelming majority of the Crimeans voted for re-unification with Russia at a referendum. Following the visit, the French deputies called for removal of sanctions from Russia and for recognition of Crimea as part of Russia.
Crimea’s reunification with Russia
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.
On March 11, 2014 Crimea’s Supreme Council and Sevastopol’s city council adopted a declaration announcing independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, including the Black Sea naval port of Sevastopol. On March 16, more than 82% of the electorate took part in the referendum. At least 96.77% in the Republic of Crimea and 95.6% in Sevastopol backed splitting from Ukraine and spoke in favour of reuniting with Russia.
On March 18, the treaty on Crimea’s reunification with Russia was signed.
Results of the referendum were celebrated by many Crimeans but the vote was widely criticised by Western leaders and at the United Nations. Western nations and Ukraine refused to recognise legitimacy of the referendum.
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.