A Russian soldier in the annexed peninsula of Crimea. Photo: AFP
The ten lawmakers began their trip to Russia on Wednesday but on Friday were due to visit Crimea, which was controversially annexed by Moscow from Ukraine back in March last year.
Laurent Fabius, the country's foreign minister, was not impressed when he caught wind of the unofficial trip and the Foreign Ministry has made it clear to the ten MPs that they represent neither the country nor the parliament.
But for those ten MPs, most of whom are from Nicolas Sarkozy's Republican party, the aim is not sinister and they deny their visit represents a recognition of the annexation of Crimea.
“We must maintain dialogue with our Russian friends,” said Thierry Mariani who leads the delegation.
“There was meant to be a Franco-Russian meeting that was cancelled in response to sanctions imposed on Russia. At the parliamentary level, there has been almost no dialogue in about two years.”
France along with the European Union imposed sanctions on Moscow after the annexation of Crimea, with Russia subsequently accused of stoking separatist conflict in the east of the country.