YALTA (Sputnik) – Crimea, which has a predominately ethnically-Russian population, split from Ukraine to rejoin Russia in March 2014 after a referendum in which 96 percent backed the secession. Kiev and its Western allies labeled this move an "annexation."
"We saw happy people here who live in Crimea and have returned to Russia. We talked to young people. It’s a very different picture from what is shown in our countries. I saw such a warm welcome here. We had a completely different idea about Crimea [before the visit]," one of the 10 lawmakers told journalists after talking to residents of the Crimean city of Yalta.
The French lawmakers, led by lower-house National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee member Thierry Mariani, said they had decided to make the trip to Crimea to get a sense of what is really going on in the Black Sea peninsula.
Both the French and Ukrainian governments have condemned the decision, considering it a breach of international law.
The French parliamentarians arrived in Crimea on Thursday and, having met their counterparts in the State Council of Crimea in Semferopol, expressed readiness to discuss mutually beneficial ties with Russia, most notably in the tourist sector.