Russian security forces raided independent Crimean television station ATR on Monday, seizing equipment and telling employees they were looking for archival footage of an anti-Russia protest last year, station officials said.
In an emotional video posted on YouTube, deputy director Liliya Budzhurova said that armed men from Russia’s Investigative Committee and counter terrorism officials appeared at the station early Monday. Budzhurova said they had seized equipment, including servers of archival footage showing the February 2014 demonstration against the Russian takeover, effectively shutting down the channel’s broadcast operations.
ATR was established as the first-ever channel dedicated to the Crimean Tatars, an native ethnic group of about 300,000 that was deported from the region by the Soviet authorities in 1944.
Reflecting the views and concerns of many in the Crimean Tatar community, ATR was one of the last few critical voices of the current Moscow-backed Crimean government. Most Ukrainian or independent media outlets were shut down or left the peninsula after Russian annexation.
“It appears (the authorities) want to forbid us from seeing, hearing, and speaking,” Budzhurova said. “But we still have the right to live in our native land, and nobody will take that from us.”
Budzhurova said it wasn’t yet clear whether the channel would be shut down permanently. ATR’s website was still working on Monday, but was broadcasting Western films rather than news bulletins.