The gradual eviction of Ukrainian soldiers and sailors from their bases in Crimea is one of the sadder stories I’ve covered.
Most of them are not in any sense ‘occupiers’ as local Pro-Russians have started calling them. At least half have lived here in Crimea all their lives – while the Russian forces now taking over the bases have been here all of three weeks.
Most of them are not in any sense ‘fascists’ or Banderists’ as I’ve heard local pro-Russians call them. They did not support the Euromaidan movement in Kiev, their sympathies are with the militia and berkut who struggled against protesters.
If I’m finding it sad, imagine what it’s like for my Ukrainian photographer colleague Nastya. Her father served in the Ukrainian navy. She loved his beautiful officer’s coat with its gold buttons and insignia.
We watched naval officers trooping out of their stormed headquarters in Sevastopol this week, those same coats slung over their shoulders. The were too angry and upset to speak. Armed Russian soldiers, their faces covered, waved Nastya and her camera away; an elderly local man held a Russian flag.
Later than evening Nastya saw that exact scene we had witnessed, on Russian TV. It was being used to illustrate a story about Sevastopol residents hurrying to sign up to join the Russian army.
The facts, as far as I can see them here affecting Ukrainian soldiers and sailors, are mostly sad. The lies though – the lies are something else.