GENEVA, July 30. /TASS/. Swiss parliament member and leader of Socialist Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Andreas Gross has told TASS Thursday he will propose forming a PACE group for visiting Crimea.
"I can confirm that I will propose at PACE institutions to form a group of parliament members for visiting Crimea. It will happen in a month," Gross said.
"I cannot say more for now," he added.
At PACE session in January, Gross called on deputies to continue cooperation with Russia. During discussions about suspending Russian delegation’s right to vote in PACE, he said that Moscow "needs a helping hand." "The only thing we can do is continue working with those who think differently," Gross said.
He described the extension of sanctions against the Russian delegation "a big mistake." After this, PACE is no longer a significant player in fight for preventing the worst-case scenario, Gross noted.
On July 23-24, the 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.
France’s National Assembly deputy and co-chairman of the "French-Russian Dialogue" association Thierry Mariani, who led the delegation, said the aim of his trip is to observe the situation on the peninsula. He told France Info on Monday he plans to visit Russia again in October with a new delegation of French parliamentarians. Talking about his visit to Crimea last week, Mariani said: "I led the delegation of 10 National Assembly deputies and senators. However, many more people wanted to go on this trip. I had to refuse them. We will visit Russia in October during another trip."
Italian lawmakers have decided to follow the lead of their French colleagues and visit Russia’s Crimea, Manlio di Stefano, a members of the international committee of the Italian Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies, told Russia’s Kommersant daily on Tuesday. "We have decided to visit Crimea and Moscow in a Five Star Movement delegation. I will get in contact with the Russian embassy in Rome to begin the organization of the visit," Kommersant quoted him as saying.
The delegation will go to Crimea via Russia. Di Stefano said the Italian lawmakers wanted to see for themselves "how people live in Crimea after the 2014 referendum." Senator Sergio Divina with the Northern League party said he would join the parliamentary delegation.
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 favor 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 for purposes of logistics.