Three years after Russia annexed Crimea, a move bitterly contested by Ukraine’s government, the region remains in a state of flux. It’s difficult to get into, and for many people, it’s difficult to know where it’s going.
At Kiev International Airport, I hand my passport to a border guard.
“Purpose of visit?” he asks.
“Journalism. I’m with the BBC.”
He pauses. He studies my passport. He seems to be checking a list. He goes to pick up a telephone and asks a question. He does not realise I can hear.
“You remember that pro-Russian journalist from the BBC? Was his surname Rosenberg?”
“It wasn’t? OK, thanks.” He hangs up. He stamps my passport and returns it.
“Welcome to Ukraine!” he smiles.
Those pauses at passport control are an indication of the current tension between Moscow and Kiev – a relationship clouded by enmity and suspicion.
Our BBC team is only passing through Kiev. Our final destination is Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia three years ago.
For journalists based in Russia, there are faster ways of reaching the Crimean peninsula. Board a plane in Moscow and two hours later you can be in the Crimean capital Simferopol. Ukraine, however, warns foreign nationals that anyone entering “temporarily occupied Crimea” without Kiev’s permission and without crossing an official Ukrainian border may be banned from future entry to Ukraine.
We’re taking the longer route.
Direct flights from Russia to Ukraine stopped in October 2015. We flew from Moscow to the Belarusian…