A United Nations special envoy to Ukraine abruptly ended his mission Wednesday after a group of unidentified armed men reportedly threatened him.
From the NY Times:
A senior United Nations diplomat who was sent to the Crimea region of southern Ukraine to assess the Russian military takeover there was threatened by armed men at gunpoint on Wednesday, and aborted his visit a day after it had begun.
The diplomat, Robert Serry, was confronted by a group of 10 to 15 gunmen as he left a meeting at a naval facility in Simferopol, the capital of the Crimea region, according to an account of the incident provided by Jan Eliasson, the United Nations deputy secretary general.
Mr. Eliasson, speaking to reporters by telephone from Kiev, the national capital, said that the gunmen confronted Mr. Serry and demanded that he go straight to the city airport and leave Crimea. Mr. Eliasson said that when he refused, they surrounded his car and threatened him, but he was allowed to enter a cafe and call Mr. Eliasson. The identities of the gunmen were not clear.
There were earlier reports from Ukrainian officials that Serry had been kidnapped, but Eliasson denied that, according to the Associated Press. He said that Serry “is in good shape physically. He is not kidnapped.”
Serry described the incident to ITV News, explaining that he had walked to the café after refusing to go with an unidentified individual who claimed to have orders to take him to the airport.
From the Associated Press:
A crew from Britain’s ITV news was with Serry as he sheltered in the cafe.
“My car was blocked and somebody who did not identify himself was telling me that he had orders to bring me immediately to the airport,” Serry told the broadcaster. “I refused.” He left the car and walked to the cafe, where the armed men outside prevented him from leaving. He eventually left the cafe through a crowd chanting pro-Russia slogans and was driven to the airport.
ITV News Europe Editor James Mates, one of those with Serry inside the café, posted a series of real-time tweets about the incident.
In one of his most recent tweets, Mates indicated that Serry emphasized the urgency of the situation there.
The situation is very urgent now and we need to find a way to de-escalate the tension – UN's Robert Serry tells us before flying out.
— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014
There were still details being updated in some of today’s news reports at the time of this post, so I’d recommend refreshing some of the above links, notably the Associated Press reports, for updates.
(Featured image: ITV News video)
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