Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine:
Russia has invaded the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine and taken over its civilian and military infrastructure. Not a shot has been fired so far, but Russia is using its superior force to intimidate Ukrainian troops in an attempt to get them to surrender.
Russia claims it wants to stabilize the situation on the peninsula, which has a large Russian population, but Ukraine’s new government regards the move as an occupation of its sovereign territory.
Angry crowds of Russia supporters as well as Russian military units surrounded and entered Ukraine’s Naval High Command in Sevastopol blocking all exits and demanded that its officers switch allegiance to Crimea’s new Kremlin-alligned government. Naval Command has so far remained mostly loyal to Kiev, but its fall would represent a significant psychological victory for Russian forces.
The blockade by Russia of Ukrainian military installations in Crimea continues. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky spoke with families of personnel barricaded inside, who complained about the difficulty of getting food past the pro-Russian protesters outside. Russia’s supporters explained why they want Crimea to separate from Ukraine, and Simon negotiated his way through a Russian checkpoint to interview an officer on the Slavutych, a Ukrainian battleship stuck in the harbor of Sevastopol.
With Crimea’s parliament voting to secede from Ukraine, Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian military installations in the peninsula has moved seaside. The Russian Black Sea Fleet prepared a special operation: the sinking of a decommissioned ship in the middle of Donuzlav Bay in order to prevent traffic in and out of Crimea’s port.
VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky noticed that the unidentified men in military fatigues had suddenly disappeared from the bases — locals said that they’d gone to obstruct a mission of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from entering the region.
As Russians stream into Crimea to help wrestle it away from Ukraine, an unlikely group of Serbian war veterans, who have experience fighting in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, are turning up at the checkpoints too. VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky follows Russian troops as they continue their occupation of Ukrainian military bases, and learns about unidentified men in masks attacking journalists reporting on the situation in the peninsula.
In dispatch six, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky travels to the Kherson region of mainland Ukraine to both the Ukrainian and Russian checkpoints. At the Ukrainian checkpoint, Simon goes inside one of their tanks, and speaks to the commander, who says that despite his Russian blood he will defend all invaders. But at the Russian checkpoint, the exchange isn’t quite as cordial.
In dispatch 7, Simon is back in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, where both pro and anti-Russia demonstrations are dividing the region. Pro-Russia protesters believe that the country’s strong economy will help Crimea, while anti-Russia protesters feel that their land has been taken over by bandits.
As Russia moves 10,000 troops to the Ukrainian border and Crimea prepares for a secession referendum, tension remains high all over Ukraine, especially in the East.
On the night of Thursday, March 13 VICE News reporter Robert King captured this scene on the streets of Donetsk, where a large group of pro-Russian activists attacked a group of pro-Ukrainian demonstrators calling for unity.
With Crimea’s referendum quickly approaching, tension has spread across Ukraine, especially in the east. Before Thursday’s protests in Donetsk escalated into violence, VICE News correspondent Robert King interviewed pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine demonstrators about their opinions on the standoff.
As the whole world waits to see what impact the referendum has on Crimea, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky spends time with new recruits of the Crimean Self Defense Army.
Russian commandos stormed the Moskva Hotel in Simferopol, and nobody really knows why. It was the eve of the referendum and the hotel is where many of the international journalists covering the situation in Crimea are staying. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky tries to figure out if the troops were sent on a manhunt, or on a mission to intimidate members of the press.
On March 13, two people were killed during clashes between pro-Russian & pro-Ukraine groups in the eastern Ukrainian town of Donetsk. Two days later, friends and family gathered for the funeral of Dmytro Cherniavsky — a former press secretary for the Ukrainian Nationalist party, Svoboda.
Some people might say that two weeks isn’t enough time to prepare for referendum to separating from the country that you’ve been a part of for the last 70 years. But that’s not what a reported 95.5 percent of Crimeans think, according to the official vote count. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky visits the polling stations in Simferopol, including predominantly Tartar areas where the pro-Russian fervor is seemingly absent.
The day after Crimea’s referendum, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky tried to figure out what country he’s in, and what – if anything – has changed.
Just a few days after Crimeans overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to join Russia, the crisis across the peninsula has taken its first life. In dispatch 15, VICE News’ Simon Ostrovsky attends the funeral of the young Tatar man whose body was found this week after he was beaten by Cossacks. Despite this death, residents across Crimea are hopeful that joining Russia will bring them a brighter future.
The day after Crimea’s controversial referendum, in which 97 percent of the peninsula’s population supposedly voted to join the Russian Federation, Ukraine’s newly-formed National Guard began training in anticipation of further Russian aggression.
Against the backdrop of exploding RPGs, the crackling of heavy machine guns, and the rumbling cannons of the BTRs, Ukrainian officials and the international media got a first look at the ragtag civilian force that could be on the front lines of the new cold war.
In the aftermath of the referendum in which 97% percent of the Crimean population supposedly voted to join the Russian federation, VICE News’ Simon Ostrovsky returns to the Ukrainian Naval headquarters in Sevastopol, after self defense forces stormed the premises and took over the base.
Despite overwhelming support within Crimea to join the Russian Federation, Ukrainian forces refused to give up their naval and airbases to the Russians last week. In this dispatch, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky visits the Belbek airbase, which was being overrun by Cossacks and members of Russian forces, who believe they had liberated Crimea — though local forces don’t seem to agree.
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s government finally grasped reality and ordered its troops out of Crimea. But by the time of the evacuation order, Russia’s military had already started booting Ukrainian troops from their bases or getting them to switch sides. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky met with Ukrainian Marines in Feodosia as they decided whether to remain loyal to their country or break their oath of allegiance to stay with their families in Crimea.
As Crimea becomes part of Russia, tensions continue to rise in Ukraine and demonstrators attempt to break into parliament in Kiev. VICE News’ Simon Ostrovsky joins the protesters in Independence Square as they fight for a change in their government.
Dispatch Twenty One:
Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement has been extremely active during the Euromaidan protests, but Kiev is now moving to disarm the group. On Monday, one Right Sector member instigated a shootout outside a restaurant. Three people were injured, including a city official. In response, riot police surrounded the Dnipro Hotel, which the group was using as their headquarters. The group was forced to vacate the building without their weapons and move to a base outside Kiev. Simon Ostrovsky of VICE News was there as events unfolded.
Dispatch Twenty Two:
On April 7, the people of Donetsk declared themselves an independent republic and called for a Crimea-style referendum by May 11th. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky was there as people stormed the regional administration building and demanded to join Russia.
Dispatch Twenty Three
On the second day of the self-styled People’s Republic of Donetsk’s existence, people gathered in the Regional Administration Building to discuss their new government and make plans for the future. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky attended the meeting where things got a bit heated, and later interviewed Serhiy Taruta, the current governor of the Donetsk region. Taruta argued that those who declared independence from Ukraine have no authority to do so and are not supported by most residents of Donetsk. There’s still about a month left before their supposed referendum, and the future of Donetsk is uncertain.
Dispatch Twenty Four:
Pro-Russian protestors in Luhansk, the most Eastern city in Ukraine, took over the headquarters of the state security services on April 9. Armed with guns they found in the building, the demonstrators were determined not to leave. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky visited the occupied building, which despite the occupation, was surprisingly calm.
But not everyone in Luhansk wants to join Russia — and some who express that sentiment are suffering dire consequences. We spoke to one resident who said he was severely beaten for siding with Ukraine, and another who is determined to leave the area if Luhansk becomes Russian. Amid calls for parts of Ukraine to join Russia, the tension and unrest across the country is spreading — and it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what will happen next.
Dispatch Twenty Five:
Last week, pro-Russia forces took over the police headquarters in Slovyansk, a city in Eastern Ukraine, marking the latest expansion of the self-proclaimed “People’s Republic of Donetsk.” VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky rushed to the scene to verify whether or not Russian Special Forces had taken over the building, as was rumored, but found that it appeared to be the work of locals. As the situation escalates in Eastern Ukraine, a pattern has emerged in which buildings are stormed and occupied at night, while crowds gather outside during the day to prevent anyone from getting through. The situation in Slovyansk is different because the whole city seems to be guarded by pro-Russia forces. Which city will be next?
Dispatch Twenty Six:
On Monday, pro-Russia protesters stormed a police station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky was there as they seized the building. Inside, the demonstrators attacked a police officer accused of pushing someone out of a window while the person was trying to display a Russian flag. Later that day, a video emerged on the internet showing a man purporting to be a Russian army colonel giving orders to troops in eastern Ukraine. This is the first bit of evidence that there might already be Russian boots on the ground in the country.
Dispatch Twenty Seven:
This week, the Ukrainian military launched an anti-terrorist operation to quell the pro-Russia violence and unrest that has swept eastern Ukraine. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky interviewed troops deployed in the operation at the border between Kharkiv and Donetsk, and then traveled to Kramatorsk, where pro-Rusia protesters were attempting to take over an airfield. When Simon arrived, it seemed that the airfield was still under Ukrainian control, but the pro-Russia protesters were outside preparing to seize it. Once the head of the anti-terror operation appeared outside the base, the commander was accosted by the protesters until he retreated back inside — so much for his anti-terror operation.
Last week, Ukraine launched an anti-terror campaign to recapture the cities being occupied by pro-Russia protesters. So far, the campaign hasn’t been going so well.
On April 16, the second day of the campaign, Ukrainian military moving into Sloviansk — the focal point of the pro-Russia forces — and gave up their equipment. The armory was brought to the center of town where it has become a local amusement.
Elsewhere, crowds of pro-Russia protesters stopped a column of Ukrainian troops in Kramatorsk and made them disarm. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky was on the scene as Ukrainian forces disarmed their weapons and vehicles.
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