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Never Felt Discriminated For Speaking Russian In Western Ukraine Says Poet

Choices in the Crimean referendum

“In the past five years, I visited the Ukrainian-speaking Western Ukraine six times. I have never seen any nationalists there. I have never felt discriminated against because I spoke the Russian language. Those are myths. In all the cities of Western Ukraine I have visited, I spoke with everyone in Russian—in stores, in trains, in cafes. I have found new friends. Far from feeling aggression, everyone instead treated me with respect.’

These are the words of prize-winning Russian-language poet Anastasiya Afanasieva who lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Russian troops began overrunning Crimea setting the stage for the referendum on Sunday in which, according to the results at least, the voters decided overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia. The excuse of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for his use of force in Crimea, manipulating to hold a referendum and now for expanding into other areas of Ukraine, is the discrimination Russian-speaking minority suffers in the hands of the Ukrainians.

Afanasieva’s exasperation appears in a contribution to Poetry International (reproduced by Pen America in its blog) by Ilya Kaminsky, who lives in the US. He reflects on what concerns poets chiefly – examining the way what social scientists, politicians and soldiers speak about in sweeping generalisations actually happens in the lives of individuals and communicating the experience in words to touch the emotions, consciences or souls of others.
“[rather] than using this space for personal reflection, I want to include some communications I have had with Ukrainians, and particularly poets, in the region, to give voice to those whose world is in turmoil, and to give English speakers a better sense of current events,” says Kaminsky in the piece titled ‘Letters from the Ukraine.’
One poem that probably speaks of what is happening in Crimea right now:
Who came to power in our cities?
Who are these
that decide
to break the hearts of our houses and let out their warm raspberry blood?
Now they come
together in their black suits, looking like chimney-sweepers
who have come
to power.
(Translated from Ukrainian by Valzhyna Mort)
Click here to read the full text 

Conflict Takes Heavy Toll On Journalists

In what has been a grave four days for the profession, journalists in at least three hotspots – Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine’s Crimea – have come in harm’s way.

On Tuesday, Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot dead in Kabul. Canadian freelance photographer Ali Mustafa was killed by a barrel bomb in Aleppo on Sunday, while on Saturday, Abdul Qadar, a cameraman working for Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station was shot dead while covering clashes between Syrian forces and rebels in Deir Al-Zour.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Ukrainian journalist Olena Maksymenko ofUkrainsky Tizhden and freelance photographer Oles Kromplyas went missing on the Crimean border.

Horner’s death was confirmed by the Swedish embassy in Kabul reported Associated Press. AP quoted Gul Agha Hashinmi, head of Kabul’s Criminal Investigation Department saying two suspects had been nabbed over the shooting that had taken place in an affluent quarter of Afghanistan’s capital. Horner who worked for Swedish Radio had died on admission to hospital.
Ali Mustapha was killed by a barrel bomb (a crude explosive device usually dropped by helicopters or low-flying aircraft on heavily populated areas) while he was photographing the destruction caused by another bomb in which seven people died. The incident occurred in Aleppo’s Al-Hadariyeh District, said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders(RWB/RSF).
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) said Al-Mayadeen for which Qadar worked is a pro-Syrian government outfit and the cameraman was hit in the neck by a sniper. CPJ said his body was shown by pro-government news outlets being carried by government personnel.
“The deaths of Omar Abdul Qader and Ali Mostafa are a tragic reminder that Syria remains the most dangerous country in the world,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “Even as players in the conflict change their positions, and the balance of power shifts, one thing remains constant: Journalists face a myriad of dangers in Syria.”
In Crimea, Maksymenko disappeared with two other activists Kateryna Butko and Aleksandra Ryazantseva. RSFsaid all three supported of the new government in Kiev. They had set off from Kherson in southern Ukraine by car to Crimea and last seen at the checkpoint in Perekop on Sunday at 4.00 p.m. RSF said they were identified by Oleksiy Byk a journalist withGlavkom kneeling with their hands tied before being taken away. Byk said Maksymenko was wearing a press badge.
This was only prelude Byk’s own ordeal as he with photographer Oles Kromplyas and their driver Yevhen Rakhno were also arrested. Their car was searched by men wearing uniforms without insignia and cameras thrown to the ground. Byk was released because his brother arrived at scene and vouched that he was a Crimean resident, but nothing has been heard of Rakhno and Kromplyas since.
“The forces controlling the Crimea are responsible for the fate of these journalists,” RSF’s secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We demand that they provide immediate information about their location and state of health, and that they release them without delay.”

Will Russia Use Cyberattacks In Crimea Conflict?

OSCE Media Freedom Rep. Dunja Mijatovic

Even as media freedom in Crimea became increasingly threatened with television stations taken off the air and journalists assaulted, experts are watching possible cyberattacks accompanying Russia’s takeover of peninsula and predict that it could become a reality as confrontation on the ground grows.
“Russia has limited themselves to the things they usually do in the onset of a conflict to try to shape opinion, stifle critics, and advance their own viewpoint,” James Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C told MIT Technology Review. “They are doing the informational side, which is the opening move in the playbook.”

He added, “If violence breaks out in the Crimea, I think they will bump it up a notch.”
The article said that Russia watchers in the US were waiting to see the Russians would use its cyber war capabilities, which they have integrated into their military doctrine. “But it may be they have decided they don’t need to show what they’ve got, and won’t do it,” said Stewart Baker former chief of policy, at the Department of Homeland Security.
Please click to readthe full article.

Censorship in Crimea As Russian Troops Takeover

Russian soldiers in Crimea

International monitors have protested eroding media freedom in the autonomous region of Crimea in southern Ukraine, as the Russian military began overrunning the region from February 28. Crimean authorities censored media networks seen as hostile, prevented journalists from outside the region entering Crimea, while attacks on journalists have also been reported.

“We remind all parties to the conflict that they have a duty to protect journalists and allow them to work without hindrance,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

“Those who hold power in Crimea and the armed militias controlling the region must do everything possible to ensure that the local media can resume operating, to restore communications infrastructure and to lift the barriers preventing some journalists from entering the peninsula,” he said.
RSF said the main independent television network in Crimea, Chernomorka, had been ordered to go off air since March 3, for reasons the organisation said was “beyond our control.” The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said “Crimea’s State Television and Radio Transmitting Center (TRTC) forced the independent Chernomorka, off the air.” CPJ added that Ukrainian media had published a letter by S. N. Dotsenko, head, TRTC, saying “broadcasting had been stopped because of reasons that were unrelated to his agency, but did not offer further details.”
RSF said that although Chernomorka continued to broadcast via cable, satellite and the internet, but its internet was brought down by a cyber attack.
RSF said the state-controlled broadcaster GRTK Krym “whose headquarters was overrun by soldiers” is the only television channel left to local viewers.
CPJ reported Aleksandra Kvitko, Chernomorskaya’s chief editor telling Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency, “Only two local channels are broadcast on the territory of the autonomous republic – Chernomorskaya Teleradiokompaniya and Crimean state broadcaster GTRK Krym. By turning off Chernomorskaya, regional residents have been stripped of their right to choose. Now, we all must have only one, ‘correct’ opinion.'”
Meanwhile, on March 1, RSF said a 30-man militia calling itself the Crimea Front had stormed into the offices of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Simferopol and prevented journalists from leaving the building for some hours. They were eventually freed and allowed to take some equipment with them. “The militia also told the journalists that the ‘Crimea Front’ was ready to provide them with enough to live on, and to reach ‘an agreement on proper coverage of the events,'” said RSF.
In a related story CPJ said, “The Center for Investigative Journalism reported today that members of the regional parliament of Crimea blamed Ukrainian media for ‘spreading panic’ and ‘imposing incorrect and biased information’ about the events in the region. The MPs threatened to ‘shut off the flow of deceitful and biased information in order to save the public from negative impact.'”
Meanwhile, RSF said journalists from the Ukraine were prevented from entering Crimea at checkpoints along the border. Bohdan Kutyepov, a reporter for television station Hromadske, said he was turned back by armed men who had “threatened to open fire if the journalists tried to take photos of them.” Kutyepov was with colleagues from Inter TV, CDFand France 24. Two other journalists, Igor Trubayev (Khersonskie Vesti) and Oleg Zaychenko(Tvoya Pravda), from Kherson were also forced to turn back from a checkpoint at Armyansk, said RSF.
RSF also reported that several journalists had been attacked in Crimea, giving details of two ATRcameramen assaulted in Simferopol while filming militiamen guarding a building used by the regional government’s ministers.  There were also incidents in eastern Ukraine, RSF added.
In another incident, CPJ reported that Tatyana Rikhtun, the chief editor of the website Sevastopol 911 was assaulted and her camera snatched as she filmed Russian soldiers surrounding the Ukrainian navy base. She had reported the incident to the regional police and asked them to investigate.
With escalating tensions in Crimea and one journalist killed over 160 journalists injured in clashes in Ukraine in the past four months, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European affiliate European Federation of Journalists issued an advisory to journalists planning to visit Ukraine.
“Given the many brutal attacks against journalists in Ukraine in recent months and the ever increasing tensions in the country, we urge journalists covering events to remain mindful of their safety at all times and to ensure they take every step necessary to protect themselves. No story is worth the loss of a life,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.