UN Human Rights Envoy In Ukraine Unable To Reach Crimea

Five days before crucial independence referendum, airport restrictions bar UN official from assessing alleged human rights violations in Crimea.
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric explains the complications preventing Ivan Simonovic from visiting Crimea. March 11, 2014. Photo: Luke Vargas/TRNS

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric explains the complications preventing Ivan Simonovic from visiting Crimea. March 11, 2014. Photo: Luke Vargas/TRNS


UNITED NATIONS (TRNS) – Five days before Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula votes on whether to join the Russian Federation, the U.N. announced Tuesday that its top human rights official in the county will not be able to visit the region.

Ivan Simonovic’s visit to the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine was meant to assess Russian claims that the new post-Yanukovych government in Kiev was violating the human rights of ethnic Russians, a justification Moscow cited for its military presence in Ukraine.

“The victors [of Ukraine’s protests] intend to make use of the fruits of their victory to attack human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed earlier this month as troops mobilized on the peninsula.

UN: We Fly on Commercial Aircraft

Simonovic’s planned visit to Crimea later this week was apparently thwarted by flight restrictions imposed at the Simferopol airport, which is only accepting flights originating from Russia.

“Regarding travel to Crimea that we mentioned yesterday, Mr Simonovic will not be traveling to Crimea given the logistical situation,” spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said.

“Mr Simonovic and other U.N. envoys have gone into a volatile situation in Ukraine, his safety is paramount, and obviously the fact that the airport doesn’t accept flights coming from anywhere, as we understand, anywhere but Russia, makes it impossible for him to travel.”

“We’re not using our own planes, we’re using commercial flights,” Dujarric said. “If they don’t fly, we don’t fly.”

Responding to press questions about why Simonovic would not first travel to Russia in order to board a flight to Crimea, Dujarric closed the door on tweaking the itinerary.

“I think he appreciates all of you, you know, acting as Expedia or Travelocity,” Dujarric said.

Last week, U.N. envoy Robert Serry was confronted by armed individuals while visiting the Crimea and ordered the leave the region. After being barricaded in a café and phoning the Deputy Secretary-General, Serry agreed to end his mission in Crimea and immediately left the peninsula on a flight to Istanbul.

TRNS UN Bureau

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Luke Vargas
Luke Vargas is the United Nations bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service, leading international coverage from 15 countries since 2013. Luke previously covered U.S. elections in 2008 and 2012 for radio and television. Twitter: @TheCourier

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