22:01 GMT27 October 2020
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    About 20 politicians, businesspeople and public figures from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are planning to attend the Fifth Yalta International Economic Forum next spring, notwithstanding the countries' poor relations with Moscow and their governments' stubborn refusal to recognize the peninsula's status as part of Russia.

    Andrei Nazarov, co-chairman of the Forum's organizing committee, told Russia's Izvestia newspaper that the participation of delegates from the Baltic countries in the forum, set to kick off in April, will be "an important step toward overcoming tensions between our two countries, and the sanctions regime." 

    Vyacheslav Titov, a city council deputy from Klaipeda, Lithuania, told the newspaper that the delegation would be able to assess the peninsula's economic potential, and urged the European Union as a whole and the Baltic countries in particular to seek common ground with Russia.

    Latvian MEP Miroslav Mitrofanov, who served as an observer during the 2014 referendum on Crimea's secession from Ukraine, emphasized the importance of dialogue to escape the crisis in relations between Europe and Russia caused by the Crimean issue.

    Crimea broke off from Ukraine and joined Russia in March 2014, a month after the Maidan coup d'état in Kiev overthrew the country's unpopular but democratically elected government. Crimean authorities' request to reunify with Russia was preceded by a peninsula-wide referendum in which over 96 percent of voters voted in favor of the move. Crimea's reunification with Russia came almost exactly 60 years after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in February 1954.

    The Ukrainian crisis, and Crimea's unification with Russia led to a severe downturn in relations between Moscow and Western countries. The United States and the European Union slapped Russia with several rounds of sanctions, with Moscow responding with agricultural sanctions against Western food products. The Baltic countries have been particularly hard hit by the Russian countersanctions, which caused a severe downturn in their fishing, dairy, meat and processed foods industries.


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