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.
Now Eliasson starts up, says Serry was sent to Crimea, "we have an incident," he spoke Serry 20 minutes ago— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) March 5, 2014
Al Jazeera reporters also said the U.N. reports Serry is safe:
Deputy sec gen says envoy Robert Serry is safe— JAMES BAYS (@baysontheroad) March 5, 2014
A BBC journalist offers some additional detail, saying -- in possible contradiction of Mates report -- that Serry is at a hotel :
BBC's @NickBryantNY: UN envoy threatened by unidentified armed men and told to go to the airport and leave. He is safe and back at hotel.— Michael van Poppel (@mpoppel) March 5, 2014
Ukrainian officials are still telling a different story:
BREAKING: Ukrainian officials: UN envoy abducted by armed men in Crimea.— The Associated Press (@AP) March 5, 2014
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:
View of militia from inside coffee shop where UN envoy Robert Serry is blockaded inside pic.twitter.com/ojbAruMzyW— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014
With Robert Serry now not kidnapped, but held in a coffee shop. Some men outside prevent him from leaving.— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014
And describes what happened in his tweets:
Special rep is waiting in coffee shop for help. He's asked us to stay with him and keep filming #Ukriane— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014
UN special advisor Robert Serry had been visiting navy commander when his car was blocked. Stand off followed #Ukraine— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014
UN special envoy Robert Serry's assistant says she saw at least one man with a gun among group who blocked his car. #Ukraine— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014
The latest from Mate is that Serry is leaving via a waiting car, heading to the airport:
Crowd chant Russia Russia as UN envoy leaves coffee shop and scrambles into waiting car#Crimea— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014
Robert Serry finally on his way to the airport, police having forced a way through an angry crowd. #crimea— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) March 5, 2014