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International Monitors Turned Away from Crimean Border



The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says pro-Russian forces in Crimea have again refused entry to a team of international monitors trying to enter that part of Ukraine.

Following Saturday's incident, the latest in a series of rejections by pro-Russian forces controlling Crimea, the OSCE said via Twitter that the team would return to the southern Ukraine city of Kherson.

Also Saturday, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski announced that Poland has evacuated its consulate in Sevastopol because of "continuing disturbances by Russian forces."

Ukraine's acting foreign minister has called for a diplomatic resolution and a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine. Andrii Deshchytsia, speaking in Kyiv Saturday, said Ukraine is open to any possibility that leads to "concrete results," but he emphasized that "Crimea is and will be Ukrainian territory."

In a statement issued at the White House Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he agrees with European leaders that Russia must pull back its forces patrolling Crimea, permit international observers and human-rights monitors to work there, and also support free and fair presidential elections in May.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the U.S. not to take any "hasty and reckless steps" that could harm Russian-American relations.



The OSCE's representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, says the situation in Crimea also has created a crisis of media freedom.

Concluding a four-day visit to Ukraine Friday, Mijatovic said repeated cases of intimidation, beatings, and media censorship, particularly in Crimea, have raised concern about the safety of journalists covering events in Crimea. She also deplored cuts in transmissions to Crimea of several Ukrainian television networks.

At a Ukrainian missile defense post in the Crimean peninsula where an assault by pro-Russian activists was turned aside Friday, men who appeared to be affiliated with pro-Russian groups roughed up journalists.

Video from a security camera in Simferopol, Crimea's main port, showed a photographer being robbed of his camera at gunpoint, apparently because he had taken photographs of other journalists being beaten and robbed.

Unease in Crimea continues even though Ukraine's Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov on Friday signed a decree canceling a planned referendum on Crimea joining Russia. Crimea's Moscow-backed legislature a day earlier had voted for the peninsula to become part of Russia and scheduled the referendum for March 16.

Ukraine's interim prime minister says that "no one in the civilized world" will recognize the referendum's results, but local authorities in Crimea said the ballot will go forward.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk says he wants to "warn separatists" and others he describes as "traitors of the Ukrainian state" that their decisions are "unlawful" and "unconstitutional." U.S. and European leaders also called the referendum illegal.

The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament said Friday Russian lawmakers will support Crimea's decision if the Ukrainian region decides to join Russia.

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