Russia allows for unofficial visit of PACE delegation to Crimea

© Vincent Kessler
A senior State Duma MP has said that Russia would look into possibility of the visit to Crimea by the head of PACE’s Social-Democratic caucus, Andreas Gross, albeit not within the remit of the Russia-PACE dialogue.

Aleksey Pushkov, chair of the lower house Committee for International Relations, told TASS that after Russian delegation withdrew its participation in PACE in protest of the sanctions imposed on it by this body, any official visits through PACE channels have become impossible.

However, Pushkov noted that Russian parliamentarians had not lost the contacts with their European colleagues.

If Andreas Gross gathers a group of MPs representing not the Parliamentary Assembly, but their own national parliaments, from one or several nations, in this case, I think, this issue can be discussed,” he said.

READ MORE: Most Crimeans ‘happy to be back in Russia’ – head of French delegation to peninsula

Pushkov added that the visits of European politicians to Crimea was a mark of a new, more democratic approach to the choice of the Crimean people as earlier Europe had de facto refused the republic the right to choose their fate during what could be described as a coup in Kiev.

Lawmakers from European countries who have already visited Crimea and who will go there in future are doing this to communicate with the people and form an impression about local thoughts and inclinations,” Pushkov told reporters.

At the same time, the leaders of European politics deliberately view the problem only from Kiev’s positions and forget about the fact that the population of the Crimean Republic amounts to 2.5 million who must have the right to express their opinion and determinate the fate of their country, he stated.

Pushkov said that European lawmakers who have already visited Crimea could be seen as protectors of traditional democratic values as European politicians have always emphasized the necessity to listen to ordinary people rather than governments alone. In addition, he expressed hope that visits to the region help to defuse the political crisis that emerged in connection of the region’s accession into the Russian Federation.

On July 23-24, a delegation of French lawmakers headed by MP Thierry Mariani visited Crimea and met with the head of the republic as well as with ordinary citizens. When the visit was completed, Mariani told reporters that he and his colleagues found the people in the region to be free and happy, especially about the fact that they did not have to face the same situation as the people in the war-torn southeastern regions of Ukraine that immediately border the Crimea.

The French lawmaker also said that in his opinion there were no grounds to keep the EU sanctions against Russia in place.

READ MORE: Italian lawmakers announce plans for Crimea visit in October

On Wednesday this week, a group of Italian lawmakers from the Five Star Movement, known for its Euroskeptic and anti-establishment stance, announced their decision to follow the example of their French colleagues to pay a personal visit to the Crimean Republic in order to get firsthand information on people’s lives and the political situation on the ground.