Crisis in Crimea
Earlier this month I travelled to Donestk in eastern Ukraine which was in the process of political upheaval after Putin's recent annexation of Crimea after the Kremlin friendly Ukrainian President was ousted after months of protests in Kiev . The situation was still relatively stable in Donetsk, a city which had seen the worst of the Reich's brutal excesses in WWII, with two thirds of it's population wiped out under German occupation . The elderly Russian speakers who remembered the days of security as members of the old USSR and the young unemployed found comradeship in Lenin Square unified in their aim to once again be joined with Russia under a President who seems hell bent on recreating the greatness of an eastern Empire that probably never really existed in the first place during Communist or Tsarist times by bullying former satellite states into rekindling old alliances .
Street fights were beginning to break out between opposing groups and there was evidence everywhere you turned of thugs bused in from across the Russian border .
After a number of days myself and The Telegraph's Damien McElroy decided to make our way to Crimea where a referendum was soon to be held to decide the future (if you believe that ) of the home to Russia's Black Sea fleet . After being turned away by air traffic controllers on our descent into Simferopol we had to resort into taking the train from Kiev where we were finally greeted in the Crimean Capital by a phalanx of Russian Cossacks looking for agitators sent by the "Fascists" in Kiev . Pro Ukraine protestors met in their scores wearing flowers in the hair and tape over their mouths whilst overweight Policemen look on in bemusement .
In Simferopol we were joined by the Moscow Correspondent Roland Oliphant who had been following the story since the early Maiden protests in Kiev . There was uncertainty on the streets and people queued for hours for the chance to withdraw the equivalent of $50 usd from the ATM . There was evidence of local Radio and TV broadcasters being intimidated and ultimately closed whilst state television showed archive footage of the great patriotic war to remind the Crimean's of the horrors of Fascism .
As the Ukrainian soldiers remained under siege in their bases by unbadged Russian elite forces the Russian speaking population went about the most biased Referendum I'd ever witnessed, ironically overseen by drunken Fascists from the EU political fringe who have a rather odd relationship with Putin revelling in his sticking two fingers up at what they see as a far too liberal, multicultural West . One evening in the hotel I overheard them talking about how Russia need to keep Ukraine "destabilised " for the foreseeable future .
The result of the Referendum was never in doubt, and some like myself wondered how Crimea ever became part of Ukraine in the first place, regardless of the West's posturing and the Kremlin's intimidation it was clear the majority of Crimeans were more than happy to rejoin Russia. In my opinion it wasn't the end result that left a bad taste in my mouth but the methods used by the pro Russians to achieve their aims . Those who's opinion differed were driven underground and on at least one occasion beaten, tortured and murdered .