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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ukraine: Friday violence in Odessa

Fire in Odessa building of Trade Unions
(Image: TSN)
Situation in Eastern Ukraine, where the pro-Russian separatists and terrorists and Russian forces continue to control several cities, destabilizing the situation in the country, remains extremely tense, as Ukrainian Armed Forces and National Guard have started there the next active phase of an anti-terrorist operation, regaining control over several cities and blocking the terrorists. But despite the successes of Ukrainian security forces in Eastern Ukraine, the attempts to destabilize Ukrainian Southern-Eastern regions continue.

Ukrainian coastal city of Odessa, located in Southern Ukraine, has witnessed on Friday, 2 May, terrible clashes and skirmishes between the pro-Ukrainian activists and patriots and pro-Russian and separatist forces, leading to a terrible tragedy for the city with dozens of dead and more than 200 injured.

Ukrainian march to support unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, led by local Odessa and by Kharkiv Ultras, was attacked by the heavily armed pro-Russian forces and separatists, who were carrying automatic weapons, rifles and guns. Eye-witnesses and local Euromaidan activists reported that these supporters of Russia and federalization came to Ukrainian march fully equipped for war, as if they have been preparing for these clashes in advance.

Violent clashes in Odessa
(Image: TSN)
Pro-Russian and separatist forces have attacked Ukrainian demonstration suddenly, throwing Molotov cocktails at the people, using sound and smoke bombs and shooting the demonstrators with live ammunition, as local police was unable to stop the clashes and to disperse the crowds. The police actually have been supporting the separatist forces, refusing to react to the attacks and shooting, what was captured and documented by several cameras during the clashes.

The clashes started at about 3 p.m. local time and lasted till the late night hours, as the fierce mayhem was ongoing, and pro-Russian snipers, located on the roofs of the neighboring buildings, started to shoot the demonstrators and Euromaidan activists. The clashes left at least 7 people dead and dozens of wounded.

Killing of Ukrainian activists in these violent clashes provoked a wave of rage of the pro-Ukrainian forces, as they responded the separatists and Russia’s supporters with the stones and Molotov cocktails and started to chase pro-Russian activists from the downtown of the city. The main camp of Odessa AntiMaidan and pro-Russian forces was totally destroyed and burnt down by the pro-Ukrainian forces. Terrified separatists and pro-Russian activists escaped the people’s rage and rushed to the building of Trade Unions, where they appeared to be blocked. Clashes continued, with the Molotov cocktails being thrown from the both sides. There were reports of continuous shooting from the roof and upper floors of the Trade Unions building, where the separatists were located.

Violent clashes in Odessa
(Image: Radio Svoboda)
The building of Trade Unions was set on fire later, though the reasons and origins of this fire are still unknown and unconfirmed. Several videos of the journalists being on the ground there demonstrated though that the fire has started on the third floor of the building and inside. Fire was the cause of the dozens deaths in Odessa Trade Unions building, as some people have died from suffocation and from the smoke, while others have jumping from the windows. According to the official information of Ukrainian Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health, 38 people have died in the fire in Trade Unions building, while the activists and eyewitnesses claim there are more.

Investigations are ongoing, and Ukrainian police and SBU (Intelligence service) have opened more than 10 criminal cases regarding the violent clashes in Odessa and have arrested 167 people involved in the provocations and accused of organizing and starting the clashes. Ukrainian SBU head Mr. Makhnitsky reported that there are Russian and Transnstrian citizens among those people. At least 20 victims of Friday’s fire in Odessa Trade Unions building were already identified, as 15 of them appeared to be Russian and 5 – Transnistrian citizens as well. In addition to that Ukrainian police and SBU claimed to have evidences of Russian involvement in the horrible clashes in Odessa. He regional head of Odessa police Petro Lutsyuk was dismissed due to the recent events in Odessa. More details are expected to be presented soon, as investigation is ongoing in order to identify the forces, on Russian and Ukrainian sides as well, participating in, organizing and sponsoring the pro-separatists and violent clashes and activities in Ukraine, aimed to destabilize the situation, to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections and to push Ukraine towards the war conflict.

On Saturday, the next day after violent clashes and fire in Odessa, local residents and activists come to commemorate the slain protesters and dead people, bringing flowers to the place of clashes. Three days mourning was declared in Ukraine, with all the celebratory events and programs cancelled.

Building of Trade Unions in Odessa after fire
(Image: IPress)
Ukrainian side was immediately accused by Russia of being behind the clashes in Odessa, as Russian officials stated that the “punitive operation of Kyiv junta against Ukrainian citizens” is unacceptable, using their rhetoric in condemning Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation carried out in Eastern Ukraine and forgetting that there were no military or special securities forces operations in Odessa or other Southern Ukrainian cities as well. EU and USA in their turn have supported Ukraine and its anti-terrorist operation, stating that Ukraine has the full right to defend its territory and people, while the message to Russia was clear: stop interfering in Ukrainian internal affairs and withdraw all Russian troops and pro-Russian forces from Ukrainian soil.

Thus, despite the tense situation in Eastern Ukraine and ongoing fights with the Russian terrorists and pro-Russian separatists, that continue on Saturday, 3 May, the attempts to destabilize the Southern region of Ukraine and its stronghold Odessa have failed at the moment. But the new provocations are expected to happen in other Ukrainian cities during the May holidays, that’s why Ukrainian officials and activists as well urge Ukrainians to avoid big gatherings and meetings these days.

Written for Valerie Magaine.