The Europeans’ interest in Russia’s Crimea is soaring. Although Ukraine uses a variety of means of pressure to hamper trips to the peninsula Western politicians, culture workers, businessmen and journalists keep visiting this beautiful and ancient land. These visits are clear evidence the Western public mind is changing its attitude and getting bored with confrontation with Russia. Moreover, they impregnate the peninsula’s news boycott.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has voted for a resolution declaring that all European legislators, regardless of their status, will from now on bear responsibility for visiting Crimea and Donbas on their own, Ukrainian parliament member Georgy Logvinsky has said.
“The struggle between Russian interests’ lobbyists and those who support Ukraine is fierce, indeed,” but as a result the PACE members voted in favor of the Ukrainian delegation’s amendments making European legislators responsible for visiting Crimea and Donbass in defiance of Ukrainian legislation. Logvinsky said that PACE members were free to go there only for attending their official duties, for instance, in the capacity of election observers or rapporteurs. “In all other cases the European legislators should abide by the national legislation. Should you go there without permission, brace for bearing responsibility. Criminal responsibility under our laws,” Logvinsky said.
Kiev is adamant even when it comes to minor affairs. Just recently French film star Pierre Richard had to cancel his stage production Pierre Richard III, originally due in Sevastopol and Simferopol in February. “The decision was a result of harsh and aggressive onslaught by Ukraine, even threats to life and health,” the show’s organizers said.
Yet, the list of Western politicians and culture workers visiting Crimea and Sevastopol keeps getting longer. On January 26 the authorities of Sevastopol said the city last year welcomed 36 foreign delegations, including those from Japan, Nicaragua, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Serbia, Turkey and Laos. They also toured Crimea. Many foreign visitors were representatives of business communities who held talks with their Russian counterparts. A group of French legislators from Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-of-center party under Thierry Mariani traveled to Crimea last July. Opposition politicians in Italy decided to follow in the footsteps of their French counterparts to see for themselves what life in Crimea was like.
At the end of last September the leader of Italy’s Forza, Italia party, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi paid a private visit to Crimea, where he was welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol. Japan’s former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, was a trailblazer in that respect. He had been to Crimea back last March.
A human rights mission of the Council of Europe arrived in Crimea last Monday. Earlier, the Council of Europe’s Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland explained he was sending the mission for the sole purpose of looking into the human rights situation in the peninsula. He added that the mission would be completely independent and refrain from regarding the issue of Crimea’s territorial status.
The Crimean authorities advised the Europeans to pay attention to Ukraine’s transport, water and electric power blockade by Ukraine, because such actions certainly violated the rights of Crimea’s residents and ran counter to humanitarian principles.
“The West feels very insecure in the information war over Crimea,” the leading research fellow at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, Oleg Nemensky, has told TASS. “PACE’s ban is scandalous, of course. In fact, Europe has acknowledged it has lost the ideological standoff.”
This is being done in order to conceal from the Europeans what is happening in Crimea in reality. “Many Europeans think that hostilities are underway there, that people are under strong pressure and have to observe night-time curfew. But ever more Europeans dare go to Crimea to see the facts of life for themselves. When they return, they start telling everybody around that the real state of affairs is very different from the picture drawn by the Western mass media. This makes breaches in the wall of Western propaganda and scares Western politicians, who have to resort to outspokenly undemocratic methods. I believe that PACE’s ban will merely entice still more Europeans to go to Crimea.”
“The attitude to Crimea is obviously changing,” the deputy head of the political sciences department at the Moscow State University, Igor Kuznetsov, has told TASS. “True, there is no official recognition and it is unlikely to happen in the near future, but the influx of visitors will grow. Real recognition de facto will follow when foreign investments start pouring in and major contracts with European businesses are signed.”