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UN Shuts Down on “UN” Copter in Ukraine, As On Journalists Detained

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 20, more here -- While the UN has five times refused to explain what helicopters with "UN" markings were doing in Ukraine, video here, its silence has now extended to journalists of LifeNews which filmed the helicopters who have been seized and pictured handcuffed under armed guard, here.

  On May 19, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: on Ukraine, I wanted to ask if you have any response back from the Government. I’ve seen some reports that they’re claiming that the helicopters were in fact the photos from the DRC two years ago. Although there’s not any blue helmets around it.

Spokesman Dujarric: I don’t have…

Inner City Press: The two journalists from Life News that was the media that filmed the helicopters have been arrested and report trade in photographs as bound and with bags over their head and with the Ukrainian authorities with guns pointed at them and I’m wondering whether the UN, Mr. Šimonovic, UNESCO --

Spokesman Dujarric: We’ll check with Mr. Šimonovic. I don’t have anything particularly on that right now.

   Twenty hours later, still nothing. Meanwhile the OSCE has spoken up for the journalists. The UN is becoming... UN relevant. Simonovic will brief the Security Council on May 21, and at some point the press.

   Given the speeches given at the UN about freedom of the press and of information, what will Simonovic say about the detention of these journalists?

  The Free UN Coalition for Access, similar to positions it had publicly taken on the outrageous detention of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, Zone 9 Bloggers in Ethiopia, editors in Somaliland and VICE in this Ukraine conflict, will be asking about this case of journalists Oleg Sidyakina and Marat Saychenko.

   Ukraine is a major provider of helicopters and air services to the UN, and amid the Kyiv government's “counter-terrorism” offensive on May 13 video surfaced of a white helicopter marked “UN,” here.

The UN has in the past complained of governments using UN-marked equipment for their own military goals. So Inner City Press submitted these questions on deadline to Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq:

This is a Press request for UN comment on deadline on this video

featuring “UN” helicopters in Ukraine. Is this appropriate? Why would Ukraine have helicopters with such markings inside Ukraine? What does the UN allow Ukraine to use them for? What will the UN do? On deadline.

  Hours went by without any substantive answer. Inner City Press asked about the issue at the UN Security Council stakeout, video here from Minute 5:17.

  More than six hours later, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson provided this response to Inner City Press:

Subject: On Ukraine.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, May 13, 2014 at 7:40 PM

The Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities concerning this issue. It is the responsibility of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) that provide Contingent Owned Equipment to peacekeeping missions to remove all logos and signage bearing the UN's name once such equipment has been repatriated to the home country or is no longer being used for official UN purposes. Moreover, every Letter of Assist, signed between the UN and TCC, also clearly states that “the Government may only use such painted and marked Aircraft for flights, which have been tasked by the United Nations.”

   We will await more -- that is, the response of the Kyiv authorities and what the UN actually does. Inner City Press asked another question as well, and has questions pending back to the first week of Dujarric's tenure in March.

From the UN transcript:

Spokesman Dujarric: Mr. Lee?

Inner City Press: Sure, thanks a lot. I wanted to ask you about the helicopters, and thanks for sending that out, but there are some questions that are left unanswered by it. Since then, Ukraine has denied that they’ve used… that helicopters have any UN markings, and I’m sure you’ve seen the photographs and in the video. So, I wanted to ask you, what has Ukraine said back to the UN? Which Mission did these helicopters serve in? Were they, in fact, Government-owned, or were they a contractor that served? What was the… you know, what’s the tail number, basically? Are you investigating it to find out…?

Spokesman Dujarric: I think we’ve spoken to the Ukrainian Permanent Mission here and we’ve made very clear our concerns and their responsibilities so we will see what the next steps are. But obviously, these kinds of reports are troubling and we expect people to take the appropriate steps. As for details of where these helicopters may have served, and even if they were UN helicopters, I don’t have any further information. You know, we’ve obviously seen the pictures, like you have, and have reminded the Ukrainian authorities of their responsibilities.

Inner City Press: So, have you asked for a response from them to describe which helicopters they are?

Spokesman Dujarric: Let’s see, I think this conversation happened late yesterday and we will see what the next steps are.

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