Icelandic journalist on the way to Donbas for the referendum

Erna Ýr Öldudóttir has already managed to get new camera …

Erna Ýr Öldudóttir has already managed to get new camera equipment for her trip to Donbas in Ukraine.

The journalist, Erna Ýr Öldu­dótt­ir, has landed in Turkey and is going to Ukraine to witness the referendum in Donbas this weekend, where the vote is about whether these Russian occupied areas will be a part of Russia. The Russian installed authorities of these areas announced the referendum earlier this week and voting is supposed to take place this weekend and end on Tuesday.

First Öldudóttir will go to Russia and from there the Russian authorities will fly foreign journalists to Donbas. However, the trip did not start well for Öldudóttir. She was going to travel with her friend, Margrét Friðriksdóttir, who is the editor of Fréttin, but Friðriksdóttir was asked to leave the airplane after having an argument with a flight attendant, as was first reported by Vísir .

"This will be ok," Öldudóttir said to mbl.is. Her friend had the camera equipment so it looked like Öldudóttir would not be able to film at all in Donbas, but she has managed to get a hold of a new camera.

Friðriksdóttir had a bag with the camera equipment that she wanted to keep in the overhead department on the plane, but the flight attendants did not allow that. Furthermore, she denied wearing a mask, so it ended with her being asked to leave.

Will see for herself what is going on

Öldudóttir andFriðriksdóttir were the only journalists that accepted the offer that was sent to many media companies earlier this month about travelling to Ukraine to cover the referendum in Donbas, free of charge.

Íbúar fyrir fram heimili sitt í Kramatorsk í Donetsk eftir …

Íbúar fyrir fram heimili sitt í Kramatorsk í Donetsk eftir loftárás 31. ágúst 2022. AFP/Anatolii Stepanov

"It is important to go to Donbas and see what is going on. Many people are saying that this is just nonsense and a sham referendum. I think it is strange that people are saying that, without witnessing first hand how it is," says Öldudóttir.

"Talk to the people and see what they say"

- But Russians were the ones who invaded Ukraine and it has resulted in massive deaths and destruction in the country. Don't you think that undermines the credibility of this referendum?

"Journalists are going now to see if people are being forced in any way to vote or if they are doing it willingly. If people are not happy about the invasion, then they surely would vote against becoming a part of Russia, but if they want it they will be happy to vote in the favour of the Russians."

- But don't you think that there is a danger that the Russians (who are sponsoring and paying for the trip) will manipulate the outcome?

"I will look at how everything is managed and whether there are inspectors on the premises and son on. The role of journalists is to go there, talk to the people and see what they say," says Öldudóttir.

There are security measures in place according to Öldudóttir and she wonders why no other journalists took up the offer. "This is very exciting. I do not understand why people did not accept the offer. It is amazing to get this opportunity," she says.

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