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Published: Thursday March 6, 2014 MYT 2:00:03 AM
Updated: Thursday March 6, 2014 MYT 2:00:03 AM

UN envoy forced out of Crimea by hostile pro-Russian crowd

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) - A U.N. special envoy was forced to abandon a mission to Ukraine's Russian-occupied Crimea region on Wednesday after being stopped by armed men and besieged inside a cafe by a hostile crowd shouting "Russia! Russia!"

A reporter for Britain's ITN television, James Mates, said the envoy, Dutch diplomat Robert Serry, had taken shelter in the cafe to escape the armed men who stopped him. He agreed to leave Crimea to end the stand-off.

A Reuters photographer saw him being escorted by police through a crowd of about 100 angry demonstrators, some waving Russian flags, near the headquarters of a foreign observer mission.

Crimea is under control of Russian forces who seized it last week, although Moscow says "self defence" units of men in uniform without insignia are not under its command.

"UN special envoy Robert Serry with me in coffee shop. Outside local militia block the door," Mates tweeted.

"He refused to go with men blocking car, got out and walked until he found coffee shop. He's asked ITV News team to stay with him," Mates said.

Later Mates added that Serry had said he was very happy to leave Crimea "if it helped de-escalate the situation".

(Reporting by Vasily Fedosenko and Peter Graff, Writing by Peter Graff, Editing by Timothy)

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