A group of pro-Russian French MPs has provoked outcry across Europe on a visit to Crimea. EurActiv France reports.
French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius expressed his outrage at a group of ten MPs, most of them members of Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition Republican party, who visited Crimea last week.
Violation of international law
The minister said he was “shocked” by the pro-Russian group’s trip to the Ukrainian peninsula, annexed by Russia last year in a “violation of international law”.
The indignation the junket generated quickly spread across Europe. Latvian foreign affairs minister Edgars Rink?vi?s said on Sunday 26 July that it was a “disgrace to Europe” and a “severe blow to European solidarity”.
Visit of some French parliamentarians to occupied Crimea is a disgrace to Europe “whole and free” and severe blow to European solidarity
— Edgars Rink?vi?s (@edgarsrinkevics) July 26, 2015
The two-day visit, which received significant Russian media coverage, was also denounced by Kyiv for its “lack of respect” towards Ukraine.
Crimea was annexed by Moscow in March 2014, after pro-Russian forces occupied the peninsula and held a highly contested referendum, deemed illegal by Kyiv and the West.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Russia, including the prohibition of all tourist activities in Crimea.
Elisabeth Guigou, the president of the French Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told iTELE the affair was “ridiculous”.
“They claim they went there for personal reasons […]. Obviously they were received as French MPs by the Russian regime and by the occupying authorities in Crimea.” She added that in taking part in the visit, the group had “violated international law”.
Bruno Le Roux, the president of the French Parliament’s Socialist group, said on Friday that it was “a disgrace that these ten members of parliament should go to Crimea without taking up the least contact with the Ukrainian authorities”. The politician’s name is one of 89 on the Russia’s travel ban list, drawn up by the Kremlin in retaliation against European sanctions.
The French Parliament’s Republican group said it did “not support” the visit, but said it was “very important to maintain balanced relations with Russia”.
The controversial group of MPs, including Thierry Mariani, also paid a visit to the president of the Douma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. Mariani, who was a minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, is also a firm supporter of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.