Kyiv, July 31, 2015. “The visit of several French parliamentarians to Crimea was a breach of international law and of the UN Resolution,” stated Olivier Vedrine, EU expert and President of the Continental University Think Tank in Kyiv at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. The trip was initiated by the French-Russian Dialogue Association, who Vedrine stated is known for its sympathies to Russian politics. Its members include eight representatives of the Republican party: Thierry Mariani, Nicolas Dhuicq, Claude Goasguen, Jacques Myard, Patrice Vercère, Sauveur Gandolfi-Scheit and Marie-Christine Dalloz. Vedrine further explained that the delegation also included the senator from Paris of the Union of Democrats and Independents Yves Pozzo di Borgo and radical MP Charente Jérôme Lambert.
The visit attracted a wave of criticism in France and particularly from the French media. “Thus, last Friday the head of the faction of the ruling Socialist Party called this trip a ‘shame’ said Vedrine. “The fact that those ten parliamentarians went to Crimea without notifying the Ukrainian authorities is a shame,” said Bruno Le Roux, on the French radio station, France Info.” Bruno Le Roux is included on the list of 89 EU citizens whom the Russian Federation banned from entry in response to EU sanctions.
French politicians also reacted negatively to the trip. For example, according to Vedrine, in advance of the MPs’ visit to Russia, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated that he was “shocked” by such an act. “These ten parliamentarians by no means represent France’s position, or the position of its government or the Parliament. They made this trip as private individuals, so the statements they made relate to them only, and commitments they made apply to only them personally,” summarized Vedrine.
The biggest problem is that this trip has set a precedent for future trips, Vedrine is convinced, and believes that representatives of Europe’s far right and far left political parties are going to visit Crimea, entering from Russia. “What they have in common is their vision of Putin as a strong and influential leader, and a critical attitude of both the U.S. and the EU. Another thing they have in common is that they do not know Russia well, and thus believe Putin’s propaganda,” said Vedrine. According to Vedrine, Greek Prime Minister Alexander Tsipras’s visit to Saint Petersburg also conforms to this logic.
Following the visit of the French MPs, Italy’s MPs are also preparing to visit Crimea. Vedrine said that one of the staff of Manlio Di Stefano of Italy’s far left Five Star Movement” expressed to the Russian newspaper “Kommersant” Stefano’s intention to contact the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Italy to organize a visit. The Italian delegation is to be comprised of up to nine members and will be headed by Senator Alessandro Di Battista. The visit is scheduled for October 2015.
Moreover, Vedrine believes that representatives of the Hungarian party, Jobbik, may also visit Crimea, in addition to representatives of the group, For New Dialogue with Russia, recently created at the European Parliament. “The visits of the “useful idiots” have started! They pose a threat to the EU, Ukraine and for the universal values that the French Republic defends. It is a new chapter in the war between authoritarianism and freedom and democracy. The war against Ukraine is turning into war against the European Union,” concluded Vedrine.