United Nations Envoy in Crimea Nearly Kidnapped by Armed Men

Following initial reports that U.N. special envoy Robert Serry was kidnapped, conflicting reports are emerging as to what exactly happened, though we know he is safe. 

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United Nations officials said today that, U.N. envoy and secretary-general representative Robert Serry, who arrived in Crimea hours ago, has been threatened by armed gunmen but was not kidnapped, despite earlier reports that he was. According to ITV reporter James Mates, who posted a photo showing Robert Serry on Twitter moments ago, the envoy is safe but was holed up in a coffee shop waiting for the threat to pass and is now being driven away.

Interfax first reported that Serra was kidnapped by unidentified armed gunmen. The Russian news agency was the only news source reporting the events.

One reporter, Matthew Russell Lee (who tweets as Inner City Press), says that Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson did confirm that there was an incident but quickly added that Serry is safe.

Al Jazeera reporters also said the U.N. reports Serry is safe:

A BBC journalist offers some additional detail, saying -- in possible contradiction of Mates report -- that Serry is at a hotel :

Ukrainian officials are still telling a different story:

According to the Kyiv Post:

Ukraine's foreign ministry said Serry was kidnapped in Crimea's capital Simferopol. "Serry has just informed us that his car in Simferopol was blocked by unknown people in uniforms and they told him they were under orders to take him to the airport. He refused to go and was seized and is effectively being held by a group of unknown people as a hostage," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis said. 

The Kyiv Post also reported that another official, Ukraine's border service chief Mykhailo Kovalev was kidnapped today, but other news outlets have not picked up the story. 

So far, the most convincing report comes from ITV reporter James Mates, who says he was just holed up with Serry in a coffee shop: 

Mates says:

And describes what happened in his tweets:

The latest from Mate is that Serry is leaving via a waiting car, heading to the airport:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.