ITV News witnesses UN envoy being trapped by local militia in Crimea cafe

UN special envoy Robert Serry speaking to ITV News' Europe Editor James Mates. Credit: ITV News

A United Nations special envoy was forced to seek refuge in a coffee shop in Crimea today after being confronted by armed men in the Ukrainian region of Crimea.

The incident which unfolded in Simferopol was witnessed by ITV News.

After hearing rumours that Robert Serry had been seized by armed militia, Europe Editor James Mates travelled to the region to find the Dutch diplomat waiting in a coffee shop for assistance.

Mr Serry had been visiting a navy commander when his car was blocked by unidentified men.

The UN envoy's assistant claimed she saw at least one man with a gun during the confrontation.

An aide to the UN envoy asked journalists from ITV News not to leave the cafe which was surrounded by unidentified local militia.

"No, no don't leave. Please," the assistant is heard saying as Mr Serry discusses the situation on the phone.

The view of militia from inside the coffee shop where the UN envoy was being held. Credit: ITV News
ITV News' Europe Editor James Mates, a cameraman and a senior Foreign Editor for ITV News were trapped in the shop. Credit: RTV

While he was trapped in the cafe, Robert Serry gave a detailed description of the confrontation to ITV News.

"When I left my car was blocked and somebody, who did not identify himself, was telling me that he had orders to bring me immediately to the airport. I refused," Mr Serry told James Mates.

He revealed that he managed to get out of his car after the unidentified group attempted to take control of the vehicle.

The diplomat said he would be happy to abandon his mission and leave the region if it helped de-escalate the volatile situation.

After agreeing to head straight to the airport to end his mission, Serry was greeted by angry pro-Russia protesters as he left the shop.

The protesters chanted "Crimea is Russian" and Vladimir Putin's name as Serry tried to climb into a vehicle.

Once he was in the car, the group were held for up to seven minutes while local police attempted to disperse the hostile mob.

After the ordeal, Mr Serry confirmed to ITV News that he was on his way to Istanbul, Turkey where he was going to "sleep and then brief the UN Secretary General".

In an exclusive interview, he said his forced departure from Crimea reflects the seriousness of the situation in the region and how he felt sorry for the locals caught up in the crisis.