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Russian Invasion Of Crimea Fuels Press Freedom Concerns

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Concerns about press freedom in Crimea are growing after an attack on the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism in Simeropol over the weekend.

A group of about 30 masked gunmen assumed to be Russian militia broke into the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism on Saturday, the Global Investigative Journalism Network reported.

The event was the latest in media censorship as Russian troops invade and take over the Crimea region in Ukraine. US officials announced Monday that Moscow has now taken “complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula.” Secretary of State John Kerry plans to fly to Kiev to try to prevent a Russian advance deeper into Ukraine.

In Saturday's incident, armed men broke a window and forced their way into the Crimean Center's offices, according to the Global Investigative Journalism Network. The group took over the headquarters, after leader Konstantin Knyrik reportedly said that from “this building does not come true information." Journalists from the office said that they left unharmed, and also managed to back up their archives.

“I am deeply concerned about the media freedom situation in Simferopol and the Crimean peninsula as a whole, following the current political developments in Ukraine,” the Representative on Freedom of the Media for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Dunja Mijatović said.

Last Friday, armed men -- reportedly Russian troops -- began seizing airports and communication centers in Crimea following an anti-Russia protest movement to push Ukraine loyalties toward the European Union.

Since Russia's invasion, journalists have been held at border checkpoints, accused by troops of spreading false information and having their equipment confiscated.

The Daily Beast reported Monday that Russian state TV has reportedly been airing manipulated video to convince viewers that the Western Ukraine has been "attacking peaceful Russian citizens and killing soldiers." The Guardian also reported Thursday that a flash grenade was launched at a journalist for asking a question after dozens of armed pro-Russians forced their way into government buildings.

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