European Parliament immediately distances itself from French MEPs' illegal visit to occupied Crimea
The European Parliament has immediately distanced itself from an illegal visit of French Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Russia-occupied Crimea.
"The European Parliament immediately distanced itself from the French MEPs. If confirmed, this is a private visit, which in no way commits Parliament," a spokesperson for the institution said in response to requests by EURACTIV, according to the Mission of Ukraine to the EU.
"This is not an official delegation of the European Parliament," the spokesperson insisted.
Ukraine's ambassador to the EU has written to European Parliament President David Sassoli to condemn a move by a group of French MEPs who are visiting the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
Five MEPs are on a three-day visit to Crimea until July 2 to act as "experts" and "assess the voting process on amendments" to Russia's constitution, according to Russian media reports.
The delegation is headed by pro-Kremlin MEP Thierry Mariani of the far-right Rassemblement National Party who previously served as transport minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and has visited Crimea on numerous occasions in recent years.
The Russian constitutional overhaul includes changes that would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036. The changes are being put to a weeklong nationwide vote which ends on Wednesday, July 1.
The move by the five French MEPs was strongly condemned by Mykola Tochytskyi, the Ukrainian ambassador to the EU.