2014-03-06 10:35:13

UN envoy to Ukraine forced to leave region

(Vatican Radio) The United Nations envoy to Ukraine, Robert Serry, was threatened by armed men and forced to leave the region. Serry arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, overnight, warning of the dangers in Crimea, while foreign ministers of the United States and Russia had their first face-to-face meeting since the crisis began.

Serry told reporters that this "serves as a reminder to all how dangerous the situation has become."

After visiting the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy in Simferopol, he said his car was surrounded by armed men in camouflage uniforms, who did not identify themselves.

"Please come as soon as possible now, because I am afraid that otherwise we...", an anxious-looking Serry said, speaking through a mobile phone with colleagues.

The Dutchman managed to flee into a cafe where he met British journalists, while armed men blocked the exits.


"When I left my car was blocked," he recalled. "And somebody who did not identify himself, was telling me that he had orders to bring me immediately to the airport. I refused, I sat in the car. There was a kind of a stand-off."

"At some point these people who actually took the driver out, put another driver in, tried to put other people in the car. I managed to get outside of the car and I walked and I found this cafe and since then I am here," the top diplomat added.

Eventually he was allowed to leave, accompanied by a pro-Russian crowd. Accompanied by heavily armed men and he was put on a plane for Istanbul.

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied Russian forces were involved in military actions outside the Black Sea bases on Crimea.


"Regarding the self-defence forces, they have been founded by civilians in Crimea. They do not receive orders from us," said Lavrov.

Lavrov spoke before meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris, who said they agreed to resolve the crisis through dialogue.

"We agreed to continue intense discussions in the coming days with Russia [and] with Ukrainians in order to see how we can help normalise the situation, stabilise it and overcome the crisis," Kerry told reporters. "All parties agreed today that it is important to try to resolve these issues through dialogue.”

Tensions remained high however, as the Russian foreign minister refused to meet his Ukrainian counterpart, though he had separate meetings with British, French, German and EU representatives.


Ukraine's interim government says some of its ministers already have begun talks with their Russian counterparts, amid Western threats of sanctions against Moscow.

Ukraine has received $15 billion in pledges from the EU and $1 billion from the United States to boost its currently troubled economy.

The new leadership claims billions disappeared under ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich.

The EU announced Thursday that it has frozen the assets of Yanukovych, his son and 16 other people.

Amid the political and military turmoil, Ukrainian authorities said the Ukrainian flag once again was seen atop the regional administrative building that pro-Russian protesters had seized, before leaving overnight.

International concern has been mounting that the conflict in Crimea may spread towards pro-Russian regions of the former Soviet republic.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos: RealAudioMP3

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