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Old March 7th, 2014, 08:22 AM   #1
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Latest news from Ukraine Pt. 2

Freedom of speech is under siege in Russia, as well....

Freedom of speech under siege in Crimea

In the past two weeks, Ukrainian and foreign correspondents have been threatened, attacked, and detained in Russian-occupied Crimea.

On March 7, Dunja Mijatovic, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, spoke with the Kyiv Post about the current “information crisis” in Ukraine after spending six hours on the peninsula.

Mijatovic compared the dangerous atmosphere for journalists in Crimea to that of her native Sarajevo before the Bosnian War: “In the air you can feel it…people are not free in their thoughts and in their movements.” She outlined a pattern of “attacks on journalists, hasty decisions to change legislation, banning [news] channels, [and] introducing other channels that are suitable for a certain group.” Mijatovic said that journalists in Crimea are facing constant “intimidation and harassment” from local self-defense groups.

On March 5, Mijatovic traveled with a team of advisors to Crimea to monitor the deteriorating situation. As they were leaving the peninsula, a local self-defense group that Mijatovic described as a “paramilitary” unit, offered to “escort” her OSCE team to the airport, making it obvious that international observers were not welcome in Crimea. Mijatovic said that the men “had clear orders” to make sure that she left.

...The people harassing journalists seem to be taking their cue from Moscow.

On March 6, Russian State Duma representative Evgenii Fedorov proposed a bill to make media executives criminally responsible for allowing “the publication of false, anti-Russian information that provides information in support of extremist and separatist, anti-Russian forces, including portrayals of events beyond Russian borders.”

Threats on members of the international media covering the Russian invasion of Crimea have been increasing over the past several days. On March 5, journalists from the BBC Russian service were threatened by Russian soldiers who told them “Don’t move or we’ll shoot.” The soldiers carried a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a grenade launcher.

On March 6, a team of journalists from CNN was told to stop broadcasting or they would be told to leave their hotel in Crimea.

Ukrainian news outlets have also come under pressure.

Mijatovic said her office had been informed that the signals of [Ukrainian] TV stations Channel 5 and 1+1 had been cut off in Crimea on March 6, and would be replaced by Russian state-owned channels Rossiya 1 and Rossiya 2. Both channels are mouthpieces of Kremlin propaganda. Among other intimidations of Ukrainian journalists, Mijatovic said that journalists from Krim TV were “harassed constantly,” but were showing “tremendous courage” by continuing to report....

She said she had met with authorities in Kyiv, encouraging them to “show a clear political will to push for investigations of the brutal beatings of more than 170 journalists…and the murder of Vyacheslav Veremiy,” a journalist who was attacked and killed in Kyiv on Feb. 18.

On Friday, Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire released a statement detailing violations of free speech in Crimea: “At a time when the entire world is following events in Crimea, those who control the region have duty to allow local and foreign journalists to do their job. The obstruction and censorship taking place under their authority is unacceptable.”

The crackdown on journalists coincides with the Crimean parliament’s decision to move up the date of a referendum to decide whether Crimea will join Russia or receive greater autonomy from Ukraine. The referendum will now take place on March 16. The recent wave of attacks on journalists is likely intended to minimize the number of international observers of the referendum, which few believe will be freely or fairly conducted.

In response to the media crisis, Mijatovic said that the international community should “have a joint voice, and “engage all sides in dialogue.” She said that it was essential that international observers “maintaining a presence” in Crimea to ensure the freedom of speech for voices of all persuasions.
Freedom of speech under siege in Crimea
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Old March 7th, 2014, 08:28 AM   #2
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Ukrainian forces continue to stand firm without firing a shot in the face of continuing Russian demands.

Russia sinks ship to block Ukrainian navy entry to Black Sea

Yevpatoria, Ukraine: An anti-submarine ship may have been the first casualty of the Russian incursion into Crimea, but it was hardly an act of violence, much less war: the Russian navy sank one of its own, junked vessels to create an obstacle, a Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.

Ukraine Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Alexei Mazepa said Russian sailors pulled the anti-submarine vessel Ochakov out of a naval junkyard and sank it in the straits that connect the Black Sea with a body of water known as Donuzlav lake. He said the act was intended to prevent Ukrainian navy ships from leaving a nearby base and going to sea.

The sinking was the latest in a series of moves by Russian naval forces in the area that were jangling the nerves of Ukrainian officers.

The Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva on patrol in the Black Sea.

Earlier in the week, the commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet, Admiral Alexander Vitko, visited Ukraine’s South Base, according to the deputy base commander, Captain Viktor Shmiganovsky.

''He asked me to invite all the officers and suggested that we collectively take up the Russian military allegiance oath and become part of the Black Sea fleet ... promising good pay and a bright future,'' Captain Shmiganovsky said. ''He insisted we do that to help protect Ukraine from extremist gangs.''

The officer said his boss, the base commander, retorted: ''Comrade admiral, we didn't see any extremist gangs here until you came with your men.''

A Ukrainian navy sailor looks at the scuttled Russian ship from the Black Sea shore.

He said the admiral left ''in a rage''.

On Wednesday, the mouth of the bay was blocked by 10 Russian vessels including the formidable guided missile cruiser Moskva.

''The Black Sea fleet can sail in the Black Sea, but it has no right to block our navy harbour like this,'' Colonel Mazepa said.

Russia leases the port of Sevastopol and other bases in Crimea, which serves as the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet.

Russian troops have seized or blockaded a number of strategic facilities in Crimea, including Ukrainian military bases, leading to uneasy standoffs with Ukrainian troops.

While the Russians have mostly worn unmarked uniforms and the Kremlin has denied that they are, in fact, Russian military units, some were seen on Wednesday wearing regulation uniforms, with Russian epaulettes and insignia, a Ukrainian army officer said.

Ukrainian Colonel Andriy Matviyenko said about 200 Russian officers and soldiers arrived late on Tuesday night at the gate of a Ukrainian anti-aircraft brigade stationed in the resort city of Yevpatoria, about 96 kilometres north-west of Sevastopol. They made no attempt to hide their Russian military identity.

''Their commander introduced himself as Colonel Dyatlov, commander of a Russian anti-aircraft unit, who demanded that we open up the gates, let him and his men in and allow them to put our anti-aircraft missiles back on duty under the control and guidance of the Russian armed forces,'' Colonel Matviyenko said.

''I flatly said no, and they turned and left. They had no business being here, on Ukrainian soil.''
Russia sinks ship to block Ukrainian navy entry to Black Sea
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Old March 7th, 2014, 11:26 AM   #3
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What Putin has done inside and outside of Russia recently is simply criminal. I hope he gets poisoned.
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Old March 8th, 2014, 08:51 AM   #4
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Tensions flare as military standoff in Ukraine's Crimea region continues

Simferopol, Ukraine (CNN) -- Ukrainian officials accused pro-Russian forces in its Crimea region of fresh bullying tactics Saturday, as about 100 armed men reportedly took control of a military office in the regional capital, Simferopol.

The men -- who are equipped with automatic weapons -- say they belong to the Crimean self-defense forces, said Vladislav Seleznyov, head of the Ministry of Defense's media office, on his Facebook page.

A CNN team that visited the scene said it appeared calm. Armed, masked men were at the entrance, and Russian flags were being painted on the gates. Those questioned declined to say what was happening inside.

Amid signs that the tense standoff of the past week is growing more volatile, Russian troops also stormed a Crimean border control point at Schelkino, near Kerch, early Saturday, seizing the armory and driving the officers' families from their living quarters, Ukraine's border service said.

The State Border Guard Service said about 100 armed Russian military, alongside Crimean "self-defense" forces, are continuing to blockade a ferry crossing point near the port of Kerch. This is being used to bring in Russian troops and military vehicles, it said.

On Friday, pro-Russian troops reportedly tried to smash open the gates of a Ukrainian base in Crimea. Russia's navy also blockaded Ukrainian ships Friday.

Armed men have now refused for three consecutive days to allow military observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to enter the Crimea region.

The observers are returning to the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to plan their next steps after being denied entry at the Armyansk crossing point Saturday, the OSCE said.

The OSCE said shots were fired in the air when a group of people wearing balaclavas approached the checkpoint ahead of its party.

A convoy of military vehicles, believed to be carrying Russian soldiers, traveled through Simferopol on Saturday, heading toward the border post at Armyansk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense told CNN.
More: Ukraine crisis: Tensions flare amid military standoff in Crimea - CNN.com
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Old March 8th, 2014, 08:58 AM   #5
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It says a lot about Putin's moral imperative that he continues this ruse that these masked thugs are "Crimean Self-Defense forces" when the world knows them to be Russian troops.
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