SEVASTOPOL, March 16. /TASS/. President of the French-Russian Dialogue Association Thierry Mariani, head of a delegation of French politicians visiting Crimea, has thanked Sevastopol’s authorities for maintaining the cemetery where the French soldiers killed during the 1853-1856 Crimean War were buried.
"I cannot but seize an opportunity to thank Sevastopol’s authorities for taking care of the military cemetery as due to diplomatic considerations, the French state cannot allocate money for keeping in proper condition the memorial," Mariani told reporters on Saturday after visiting the cemetery.
Chair of the Russian State Duma’s International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky, who is accompanying the French delegation during their visit, said that the memorial is the largest military cemetery outside France and it has 70,000 graves of French soldiers and officers.
"False information has been coming from Kiev in recent years that Sevastopol’s authorities abandoned the cemetery instead of preserving it. There have been active attempts to spread that in the French media outlets. Having come here, our delegation refuted the allegations," Slutsky added.
He pointed out that "the cemetery is in perfect condition as well as Russia’s historical memory about those times and those people."
Mariani is leading a delegation of French politicians, which have arrived in Crimea for the festivities marking the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia. They were the first foreign politicians to visit the Black Sea peninsula back in 2015 and 2016. The French delegates are accompanied by Chair of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) International Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky.
Crimea’s reunification with Russia
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the authorities that came to power amid riots during the February 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification treaty on March 18, 2014.