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    Building of the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France

    French Lawmaker Says Demoted in PACE Due to Supportive Stance on Russia

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    Thierry Mariani, French lawmaker, has been asked to step down as vice-president of the Group of the European People's Party at the Council of Europe (EPP-CD) because he traveled to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) French lawmaker Thierry Mariani has been asked to step down as vice-president of the Group of the European People's Party at the Council of Europe (EPP-CD) because he traveled to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and his press statements "raised concerns among the group members," he told Sputnik.

    "I just saw that under the pressure of the Ukrainian members of parliament I'm pushed out of the EPP-CD group. And that is good news, because now I am free," Mariani said.

    In July, a delegation of 10 French lawmakers, led by Mariani, made a four-day visit to Crimea. The head of Ukrainian delegation to PACE, Volodymyr Ariev, asked PACE in September to review the duties of lawmakers who visited Crimea or Donbass regions.

    Mariani, a member of lower-house National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee, told Sputnik he had received a letter in which PACE asked him to step down.

    "It is a very bad action for the Ukrainian delegation," the French politician added.

    Mariani advocates dialogue between Europe and Russia, stressing that negotiation is essential.

    Earlier in October, German lawmaker Andrej Hunko said he decided not to participate in monitoring local elections in Ukraine after an email exchange between Ariev and the Assembly Secretariat on Hunko's upcoming visit. Ariev stated in the email that Hunko could be attacked by, as the West terms it, "pro-Russian forces in Ukraine" and discredit Kiev afterward.

    Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia in a March 2014 referendum, with over 96 percent of voters backing the move.

    The reunification sparked international attention, with Kiev and a number of Western states labeling the process an annexation. Moscow maintains that the vote was held in accordance with international law.


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