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SIMFEROPOL, March 20. /TASS/. Parliament members from a number of the European countries, including the UK, Czech Republic, Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Brazil, who arrived in Crimea on Sunday, plan to hold meetings with the local authorities and public on Monday. The lawmakers’ visit has been arranged by the A Just Russia party. Initially, the delegation included several lawmakers from Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania as well, but they "refused to come in the very last moment."
Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Committee for Foreign Affairs Alexei Chepa told reporters that the three-day visit’s agenda included meetings with Crimea’s Human Rights Ombudsperson Lyudmila Lubina, head of the Crimean Civic Chamber Grigory Ioffe, Crimea’s Mufti Emirali Ablayev, members of the Black Sea Association for International Cooperation and general public. Besides, the delegation will also meet with Chairman of the Crimean State Council Vladimir Konstantinov.
"The visit is aimed at proving to our counterparts that the referendum held three years ago was lawful. They will see whether the people expressed their wish to return to their homeland or they were forced to vote, like many western media said," Chepa noted adding that "the European lawmakers will have an opportunity to form their own opinion. They will return to their countries, meet with their fellow legislators and tell them the truth about the situation here."
The delegation members are accompanied by Ruslan Balbek, State Duma member from Crimea, who said that "the European politicians have been visiting Crimea to spite the western media." According to him, "sensible politicians are trying to combat efforts to fool society using anti-Russian propaganda."
"Real politicians understand that under the influence of propaganda, society can take thoughtless aggressive steps and the only way to stop this anti-Russian hysteria is to provide impartial information. They come to Crimea so that they have a chance to explain to fellow Europeans that no one forced anyone to join Russia," Balbek stressed.
Ukraine’s Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Alexander Turchinov said on Sunday that the Council had instructed the country’s Security Service to compile a backlist of politicians from European and other countries who could face sanctions over their visit to Crimea. According to Turchinov, "in case their visit to Crimea is confirmed, criminal cases should be initiated against them in accordance with the current law."
In response to that, the parliament members said they did not fear any possible sanctions that Kiev could impose on them and did not plan to visit Ukraine. Jaroslav Golik, Czech lawmaker and member of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, told TASS that "Kiev was expected to response in this way." "I am ready to be declared a persona non-grata by Ukraine," he added.
At the same time, Golik added that he had already taken a walk around the Crimean city of Yalta and met with local residents. "I asked them how they felt after the 2014 referendum and they all had only one answer - ‘things are much better now, we are happier’," he said.
Serbian Radical Party member Milovan Bojic, in turn, said that he was not afraid of sanctions. "I am not new to sanctions. Anyway, I did not have plans to travel to Kiev," Bojic said. "We are glad to visit the Russian Crimea and meet with local residents," the Serbian parliament member added.
Foreign lawmakers have been repeatedly visiting Crimea. A French delegation headed by National Assembly member Thierry Mariani travelled to Crimea twice during its visit to Russia in 2015 and 2016.
After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in a coup in February 2014, mass protests began in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. On March 11, 2014, Crimea’s Supreme Council and Sevastopol City Council adopted a declaration of independence.
On March 16, 2014, a referendum on reuniting with Russia was conducted. Over 80% of voters participated in the plebiscite, most of them supporting the idea (96.7% in Crimea and 95.6% in the city of Sevastopol).
On March 18, the treaty on Crimea’s reunification with Russia was signed by President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Federal Assembly (parliament) approved the document on March 21.