Crimea in peril

Gathering clouds

By John Scott | March 10, 2014

A friend in Crimea – happier in the role of ‘makeup and fashion blogger, Crimean Tatar, brow-freak, tan-lover and coffee-addict’ – writes: ‘The situation here is getting even more serious. All the Ukrainian TV channels have been switched off today in Crimea. We only have ATR now, there is lots of Russian TV but we can’t rely on that. Everyone knows how they twist everything in Russia. Also three Euromaydan activists have been kidnapped. It’s very hard on an emotional level when you understand that if you express your point of view, you will 100% get beaten. I met a friend of mine today from western Ukraine, where they speak Ukrainian only, and we were forced to speak Russian because otherwise we would be in trouble.’

The BBC's Mark Lowen describes road-blocks springing up ‘quickly and quietly across this rugged peninsula’. One such road-block, on the main road from Sevastopol to the capital Simferopol (the equivalent to the M25 in London terms), was manned by, among others, a heavily armed Cossak:

Beside him stands a man with the Serbian national emblem on his uniform: four Cyrillic s letters – the Serbian abbreviation for Only Unity Saves the SerbsHaving been based in Belgrade, I strike up conversation in Serbian. Yes, Im from southern Serbia,” he tells me. Ive come to help my Russian Orthodox brothers – we are the same and its normal that Im here. He denies being a paramilitary – but it's clear he's a Chetnik, the nationalist Serbs who fought in the Yugoslav wars and now sporadically appear elsewhere as mercenaries.

The brave little QHA (Crimean News Agency) helpfully directs us to this Vice News report. ‘A bunch of Serbian army veterans standing on a check-point in the middle of Crimea checking cars,’ Simon Ostrovsky mutters. ‘You couldn’t make it up’.

Clearly Russia intends to have a completely level playing field when votes are counted on March 16. Its definition of level is sinister in the extreme.
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