Flowers for the colonel for not abandoning his post.
  • Chris Collison
  • Flowers for the colonel for not abandoning his post.

This morning, Chris Collison sent a quick text message with some phone-photos from the Crimean peninsula where he's reporting for JN1 TV.

Russian-occupied Crimea is not a friendly place for journalists at the moment. Chris says authorities are blocking all Ukrainian TV channels so the residents hear nothing but Russian news—we've seen how baldfaced Russian authorities have been (diplomats in Britain, for example, denying Russian troops were in Ukraine via Twitter).

Russian legislators have also proposed a bill criminalizing "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." And journalists in Crimea are being roughed up and threatened at gunpoint in the area:

With that as a backdrop, take it away Chris:

We arrived this morning in Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea. As soon as we got off the train, we were met by a line of "self-defense" forces guarding the entrance to the city. These guys are all over Crimea at the moment. They seem to have taken over for much of the security operations since the Russians came. They are guarding the parliament building, where nearby they have a sign-up booth for new recruits. There's also a tent for United Russia (Putin's political party).

Pro-Ukrainian activists held a rally near the city center where they argued with supporters of Russian integration. Many on the pro-Ukraine side were Crimean Tatars and students. A little boy offered a flower to an elderly woman who had been arguing with the crowd. She turned to him and said, "I'm not Ukrainian. I'm Russian." After some persistence she relented and took it.

  • Chris Collison

The demonstration started small, but swelled as more people from both sides arrived. A big group of pro-Russian protesters marched down the street, and then everyone began moving toward the parliament. Both sides seemed to be about the same size. Interestingly, the police walked with the pro-Ukrainian group to guard them, while the "self-protection" squads joined the pro-Russian march.

We marched with the Ukrainian side to a regional military point, where protesters gave flowers to the soldiers stationed there and called them as heroes for not leaving their post. We spoke with a colonel who told us that troops there have been under pressure by Russian forces to pack up and leave.

  • Chris Collison

Authorities have been blocking Ukrainian channels here, so people are pretty much only getting Russian news and local channels on TV. I did a standup in front of the cabinet of ministers, and a group of guys gathered around to try and intimidate us. One asked me condescendingly, "What is the English news lying about today?" They stood to the side while I did my report and made cracks about the Ukrainian and western media lying about what is going on. They were quite hostile, but they eventually got bored and left after we finished.

  • Chris Collison

We are taking a bus to Feodosia in a few minutes. My colleague says Ukrainians are guarding a military base there from Russian forces.

More to come...

  • Chris Collison

  • Chris Collison

  • Chris Collison