A group of 11 French parliamentarians will visit occupied Crimea during July 29-31. On the last day, they will take part in the celebrations of Day of the Russian Navy in Sevastopol on 31 July, ria.ru reported.
Leonid Slutsky, Chairman of the Russian State Duma’s CIS Affairs Committee, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots, head of the Russian Peace Foundation, informed that the delegation will be chaired by MP Marian Thierry, French ex-Transport Minister who heads the Franco-Russian Dialogue together with Vladimir Yakunin, the head of Russian Railways.
Slutsky stated that initially, the number of French MPs was to be 12, but one of the delegates declined to take part, noting family circumstances. According to him, the French parliamentarians will meet with the “head” of the Crimean occupational government Sergey Aksyonov, and a number of self-proclaimed officials. The full list of MPs is below:
- Monsieur Thierry Mariani (LR)
- Jean-Claude Bouchet (LR)
- René Danesi (LR)
- Nicolas Dhuicq (LR) Sauveur Gandolfi-
- Sauveur Gandolfi-Scheit (LR) Jerome Lambert (RRDP –
- Jerome Lambert (RRDP – anciennement PS)
- Jacques Myard (LR)
- Jean-Luc Reitzer (LR)
- Michel Terrot (LR)
- Patrice Verchère (LR)
- Michel Voisin (LR)
Ria.ru quotes Sergey Aksyonov as saying that the voyage of foreign MPs and diplomats is a “positive process”: “All visits of foreign MPs to Crimea ended very well for the peninsula, meaning that decisions of weakening sanctions against the Russian Federation were made:
“All visits of foreign MPs to Crimea ended very well for the peninsula, meaning that decisions of weakening sanctions against the Russian Federation were made. Constant dropping will wear away a stone, these visits have an effect one way or the other.”
It is likely that Aksyonov is referring to the recent vote of the French National Assembly voted in favor of an advisory resolution drafted by Marian Thierry to not resume sanctions against Russia after their expiration date. The resolution was adopted on 28 April 2016. 55 voted in favor out of the 101 MPs present.
Condemned by the Ukrainian and French Foreign Ministries
The French MPs will be traveling to Crimea from Russia, where they are staying on Slutsky’s invitation in Moscow, and entering Crimea in violation of Ukrainian law, according to which it is illegal to cross the enter the territory of the occupied peninsula bypassing Ukrainian checkpoints.
As last year, the members of the delegations will be acting in private capacity, and the visit has been condemned by the French and Ukrainian MFAs. Ukrinform quotes Romain Nadal, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesman, as saying:
“We truly regret. Such a visit to Crimea actually is a violation of international law.” He added that this is a private initiative of the parliamentarians.
The Ukrainian MFA has warned against the consequences of illegal trips to occupied Crimea. Oleksiy Makeiev, an MFA official, has warned that a ban on entering Ukraine is one of the consequences that such a trip could bring, and that “eveybody, including presidents and heads of state, MPs of parliaments, and ordinary citizens who visit Crimea without an agreement with the Ukrainian side, must understand this.”
Volodymyr Shamshur, the Ukrainian ambassador to France, especially noted the cynicism of the plans of the delegation to take part in the Day of the Russian Navy in an interview with dw.com.
“For me, this is beyond the limits of understanding of responsible behaviour by a politician and a deputy, especially taking into account the role of the Russian Navy in the annexation of Crimea, and taking into account that the Russian military is involved in eastern Ukraine, in Donbas.”
The Russian Navy stationed in bases in Crimea was one of the primary players in the occupation of the peninsula, when unmarked, masked Russian troops facilitated the takeover of strategic objects and the conduction of a so-called “referendum.”
Marginal politicians sponsored by Russia?
This delegation, which took place also during late July 2015, was also headed by Mariani and involved parliamentarians of the Republican party led by former French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who express fringe right views, as well as some figures from the extreme left. After the 2015-visit to occupied Crimea, Mariani was dismissed from his position of Vice-President of the EPP in PACE.
In 2016, the delegation will contain five MPs who illegally visited Crimea in 2015 and six new ones, informed Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the Russian Duma.
According to Volodymyr Gushuley, coordinator of European projects at Internews-Ukraine, the foreign politicians that are paying an illegal visit to occupied Crimea are marginal or Russian-sponsored figures.
“Usually these are marginal politicians, it is a means of political earnings. And if we track those politicians that are coming to Crimea – they are figures that have already been spotted as having a pro-Russian discourse, they are more of an instrument of Russian foreign policy than are of having a pro-Russian position, so their actions are not independent,” he said in an interview to RFERL’s Crimean service.
Ukraine’s parliament announced 20 February 2014 the beginning of the temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia. This is the date on the commemorative medal “For the return of Crimea” which the Russian authorities then issued to their helpter. The pro-Russian then President Yanukovych fled Ukraine only two days later. On 7 October 2015, President Petro Poroshenko signed the appropriate law. International organizations recognized the occupation and annexation of Crimea as illegal and condemned Russia’s actions. Western countries introduced a range of economic sanctions against Russia. Russia denies that it occupied the peninsula and calls the act “reestablishing historical justice.”