MOSCOW (Sputnik) — With the support of Russia's Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Education and Science, a group of 22 children from France aged between 11 and 16 years, arrived in Artek on August 8, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
"There was pressure from French associations, and also the French authorities. I was personally told that if we wanted to go to a French consulate regarding any issues, we could forget about it bearing in mind that those children who travel with French passports will not be helped in any way in a French consulate, claiming Crimea did not belong to Russia," Natalia Casuccini-Bonci, one of the organizers, said.
"I also know that the mayors of some [French] cities refused [to send children to Artek]for political reasons. However, representatives of different French companies wanted their children to go very much, as they are working with Moscow," she added.
According to Alesya Miloradovich, another organizer of the trip, some families who had already bought tickets to Crimea changed their minds after receiving warnings.
"One lady is a senator who wanted to send her children to Crimea very much, but she received a recommendation from a ministry telling her not to send her children to an occupied area… there were also parents who received phone calls and were told ‘Do you know where you’re sending your child? Do you know that there is war going on there and that they could be killed?’," Miloradovich said.
In total, over 60 delegations from dozens of countries have visited the southwestern Russian region of Crimea this year, including ones from Italy, Jordan and many other nations, defying Western restrictions. The French delegation of lawmakers led by lawmaker Thierry Mariani visited Crimea twice, first in July 2015 and in the same month the following year.
The historical southern region of Crimea joined Russia after a 2014 referendum in which over 96 percent of the Crimean population voted in favor of the move.