‘UN envoy seriously threatened in Crimea’

United Nations, March 6: UN special envoy to Ukraine Robert Serry, who was “seriously threatened” and his car blocked by a group of armed men in Crimea, Ukraine, fled on foot and was last reported “in good shape,” Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson told reporters Wednesday.

“He is in good shape physically,” Xinhua quoted Eliasson as saying after Serry telephoned him from a cafe in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea. “He was not kidnapped but he feels seriously threatened” by “a mixed group of 10-15 men with varying degrees of arms.”

Eliasson said it has been reported to both Ukrainian and Russian authorities. “This is a regrettable incident.”

It was later announced by the UN spokesperson’s office here that Serry was taking a late flight out of Simferopol to return to Kiev “to continue his mission, which was cut short by today’s incident.”

The UN expects “all authorities who have control of the situation will facilitate his safe return to the hotel and to continue his work otherwise he will be forced to come back to Kiev to continue his work from here,” Eliasson said.

“I have already talked to the Ukrainian authorities here and there are also contacts taken with the authorities of the Russian Federation so that they can exercise influence to rectify the situation,” he said.

“We will follow around the Robert Serry situation, of course, minute by minute.” Eliasson said.

“I will talk to him as soon as I can to discuss whether he can proceed with his mission in Crimea. We wanted him to be there in place to report back to the secretary- general and me about the situation.”

The deputy secretary general said he had been planning on leaving Kiev Wednesday or Thursday to report to the secretary general but now “will follow developments here (until Thursday) morning and see where we are in this situation and take a decision on my return after I have assessed the situation, not least for Robert.”

There were earlier reports saying that Serry was kidnapped in Crimea.

Serry was dispatched last week by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Ukraine and he went to the crisis-gripped Crimea in order to take stock of the situation in the heavily ethnic Russian region of southern Ukraine. He left Kiev for Crimea late Tuesday.

After months of political unrest triggered by the Ukrainian government’s decision last November not to sign an agreement on broader integration with the European Union (EU), violent demonstrations erupted in Kiev in recent weeks, culminating with the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych by parliament. Tensions have been mounting in recent days in the Crimea region.

IANS