More journalists are under attack in Crimea. Three journalists from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), the country’s public station, were subjected to harassment and robbery at the Crimean border.
January Espen Kruse, Kristian Elster, and Bengt Kristiansen encountered 15 to 20 armed men in black masks and unmarked uniforms at a checkpoint. Elster said the gunmen held them for 30-45 minutes.
– The atmosphere was extremely aggressive. They stood there with masks and sharp-charged weapons and accused us of being spies, says Jan Espen Kruse.
– They took us three different PCs, all we had filmed, floppy disks, USB flash drives, and a small camera. There was no question of getting something in return, they should have everything we had done the shooting, he said further.
The gunmen also took all of their protective equipment, such as helmets. The journalists had to travel by land because pro-Russian forces completely took over Crimea’s airport and halted all travel to the peninsula except for flights to and from Moscow.
Kruse said even though a few of the men wore uniforms from Ukraine’s disbanded Berkut riot police and unmarked uniforms, he knows these were Russian forces:
“The people manning these checkpoints are Russian soldiers without any kind of insignia; they’re doing whatever they like,” he said.
“The Russians deny that these are their forces, but the checkpoints are fully equipped with armoured personnel carriers, lots of soldiers and trucks, and they have dug trenches in the terrain. There’s a major offensive underway here and there’s nobody but the Russians behind it.”
After the men got through, they went through a checkpoint manned by Ukrainian soldiers. They were able to pass without trouble.
On Monday, Radio Free Europe reported there are at least five journalists and Ukrainian activists missing in Crimea. They also said there are numerous unconfirmed reports of journalists being held at checkpoints.