Ukraine bans French lawmakers who visited Crimea
Ukraine on Thursday blacklisted a group of right-wing French lawmakers who ignored warnings from Paris and paid an unofficial but highly publicised visit to Russian-occupied Crimea.
The 10 lower and upper house members used their weekend stay to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin and the living standards of the economically-isolated Black Sea peninsula -- seized from Ukraine in the wake of last year's ouster of its Kremlin-backed president.
Most were members of the French Republican Party former president Nicolas Sarkozy founded ahead of his expected new bid to become head of state.
The National Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) called the deputies' visit -- condemned by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and believed to be the first to the annexed region by any European officials -- harmful to the "national security" of the former Soviet state.
The SBU said the visit "encroached upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," and barred the group from the country for three years.
But the ruling is not expected to deter a delegation from Italy's opposition Five Star Movement from paying its own visit to the region in October.
One of its populist parties' members said on Thursday the trip was designed to showcase divisions within the European Union about the wisdom and effectiveness of the economic sanction the bloc imposed on Russia as punishment for the takeover.
The resulting trade EU-Russia trade war has harmed farmers in southern European countries such as Italy and Spain.
© 2015 AFP