The Odessa massacre

On May 2 2014, the southern seaport of Odessa, the Pearl of the Black Sea and the humor capital, saw clashes between Ukraine federalization supporters on one hand, and the neo-Nazi Right Sector, Euromaidan activists and football fans on the other. At least 46 died, with another 200 injured. 38 federalists burned alive in the Trade-Unions Building assailed with Molotov cocktails.

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 Chronology of the Events

At 15:00 on May 2, 2014, the radical right-wing Euromaidan followers and the Right Sector, along with fans of Chernomorets and Metalist football clubs, arranged a march “For Ukraine’s Unity” on the Sobornaya Square in the center of Odessa. The slogans included “For Ukraine’s Unity”, as well ultra nationalist “Death to Enemies” and “Impale the Moskals [1]

”. At 15:00 the square witnessed around 1500 aggressive people. A column of 500 supporters of Ukraine’s federalization arrived at the same time from Kulikovo field, which triggered bloody confrontations.

During the clashes around Deribasovskaya Street, where the rival parties threw paving blocks, stun grenades and Molotov cocktails at each other, one of the participants in the “For Ukraine’s Unity” march was shot in a lung and had died before the ambulance arrived.

Afterwards, nearly 200 Pro-Russian activists were blocked at Grecheskaya Street, with the local police protecting them. Outnumbered federalization advocates shot back with non-lethal weapons at the Right Sector and Euromaidan Self-Defense Forces. A part of the federalists withdrew to the Afina Trade Center and occupied a position there and stationed riflemen for defense.

Nationalist activists forced federalization supporters back to Kulikovo field, defeated them and burned their camp. Pushed from Kulikovo field, federalists hid in the Trade-Unions Building situated not far from their destroyed camp. Both sides used paving blocks and metal building materials with gunshots heard. The building caught fire with Molotov cocktails during the confrontation. The fire spread through several floors exacerbated by a late fire brigade arrival. The right-wing radicals prevented the fire from being extinguished in the building and had pinned the federalists in the building by shooting at the windows with firearms.

Some federalists tried to jump out of the windows of higher floors and fell to their death. Those who managed to leave the building were cruelly battered by Ukrainian nationalists with the police inactive.

Forty-six deaths were confirmed as of May 3, 2014 as a result of clashes on Grechekaya Street and Kulikovo field. Thirty-eight people, including the elderly and a famous Odessa poet Vadim Negaturov, died in the Trade-Unions Building fire. Most of them died from burns and carbon dioxide poisoning. Two hundred fourteen people sought medical help in Odessa’s hospitals, with 88 people hospitalized and 40 in a critical condition.

 Reaction

When the first pictures of Odessa’s Trade-Unions Building on fire were posted online, it was hard to understand which was more shocking – what the right-wing radicals were doing, or how the events were being commented on by the people who consider themselves cultured and civilized advocates of Ukraine’s European integration.

This is how the Odessa tragedy was commented on the official Twitter page of the Euromaidan:

 Євромайдан @Dbnmjr: “Odessa, I am proud of you! Thousands of the city residents are cleaning their land off the Colorados[2]. Kiev and the entire Ukaire are with you #Odessa.”

 Nikolay Zolotaryev @AdCoolAs: “Zaporizhia has kneaded a pie from the separatists[3], with #Odessa baking it”.

 Євромайдан @Dbnmjr: “A hornet’s nest … was … #Odessa # Ukraine.”

 Some blog posts shock by more than just cynicism – it is just difficult to find the right name for this: “I am going to say a very harsh and, from a Christian perspective, totally unforgivable thing: let this tragedy be a lesson for all motherfucking Colorados. Each and every!”

Iryna Farion, a Member of Ukrainian Supreme Rada from the nationalist Svoboda Party (a part of the coalition government of revolutionary Ukraine), head of the Subcommittee on Higher Education within the Committee on Science and Education, responded to the Odessa tragedy by saying: “Well, has your Putin saved you, imbeciles? This is what is going to happen to every separatist! Game’s over. Keep burning, now burning in hell. Bravo, Odessa. The Pearl of the Ukrainian Spirit! The motherland of the nationalists Ivan and Yuri Lipas [4]

. Let the demons burn in hell. Football fans are the best insurgents. Bravo!”

Volodmir Nemirovskiy, head of Odessa oblast administration, said that “What Odessites did to neutralize and detain armed terrorists (referring to Ukrainian federalization advocates – Ed.) was legal.”

Lesya Orobets, a Member of Ukrainian Supreme Rada from the Batkivshchyna liberal party, a candidate for Mayor of Kiev, commented on the events in Odessa on her Facebook page: “This day has become history. Despite the betrayal of at least a part of the police, Odessites have defended Odessa and proved to everyone that Odessa is Ukraine. An outstanding victory has been won at the cost of lives of patriots. Crowds of Colorados have been annihilated. The aggressors who were first to attack have been given a more than adequate response.”

Historical Parallels

The Odessa massacre of May 2, 2014 will be known as one of the darkest pages of Europe’s recent history. For many decades, Europe has not experienced such savageries of people setting a building on fire with their political rivals inside and burning those trying to get out.

Reprisals against civilians were arranged in the same way Ukrainian Nazi police goons, recruited by the Hitler’s forces from Stepan Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), cruelly dealt with the entire population of the Byelorussian village of Khatyn in March 1943. Defenseless residents of the village were surrounded by superior forces, driven into a shed which was set on fire, with the people burning alive.  Those trying to escape were beaten to death with the cries of “Heil Hitler!” and “Glory to Ukraine!”

Khatyn saw grand and grand-grandfathers bedazzled by the opportunity to create a “Ukrainian Ukraine.” Likewise, Odessa witnessed grand and grandchildren brainwashed accordingly. The right-wing radicals in Odessa shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” watching burning people jumping out of the windows of the building set on fire with Molotov cocktails. Just like the henchmen of Hitler’s forces later accused Khatyn’s residents of assisting the guerrilla and shooting at the German allies of Bandera’s OUN, “Ukrainian patriots” have now cynically claimed that “separatists burned themselves”: they could not use Molotov cocktails, spilt combustible mixture and set it ablaze accidentally. This is the official version of Ukraine Ministry of the Interior with regard to the cause of the fire in the Trade-Unions Building. The Ukrainian media also immediately bandied about the news that all the killed are not locals, but rather Russian citizens who came to destabilize the situation in Ukraine. It later turned out that all the burned alive by the neo-Nazis were Odessites.

There is another resemblance that is also scary. Jewish massacres committed by Ukrainian nationalists in 1941 in Lviv, which is in the west of Ukraine, had a huge number of supporters who watched reprisals against the “Jids” (Hebes) [5]

with joy. Photographic evidence of the Lviv massacre of June 30 – July 2, 1941 depict both the victims’ sufferings and the audience’s hungry curiosity. They used to be right-minded Lviv residents as recently as yesterday, but all of a sudden they turned into bloodthirsty beasts who watched with interest the ingenious killing of the Hebes. Lviv residents of the right ethnicity welcomed any inventive torture of their former neighbors with whistle, cries and jeers. They knew that the latter would be killed and they would be able to take their abandoned flats. Or at least, loot their possessions with impunity.

The same is true of June 25, 1941 in Kaunas (Lithuania) even before the German troops invaded the city.

An event of the same kind took place in Odessa on May 2, 2014. Likewise, the beast hiding inside every person flew off the handle whose strength had been overestimated.

Aleksandr Aronov’s poem “Ghetto. 1943” commemorating the rebellion in the Warsaw ghetto has such lines: “When the ghetto had been burning for four days, and there was so much crack and light, and all of you were saying: “bedbugs are burning.” With bedbugs replaced with Colorado beetles, the difference between 1943 when the SS regular troops crushed the Jewish rebellion against the Nazis and today when the Right Sector and the Euromaidan Self-Defense forces did exactly the same is not that significant.

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[1] Moskals (stems from a “Muscovite”) is a derogatory and pejorative label used by Ukrainians to talk about Russians.

[2] “Colorados” (“Колорады” in Russian) is a derogatory name for pro-Russian activists on the south-east of Ukraine that emerged because of the latter actively using St. George’s Ribbons that resemble the coloring of a Colorado beetle. St. George’s Ribbon is a bicolor ribbon as part of the Order of St. George. The Medal “For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945” was also decorated with the St. George’s Ribbon.

[3] A week before the Odessa tragedy, Zaporizhia saw confrontations between Ukrainian nationalists and federalization advocates, with the latter beaten and showered with flour.

[4] Members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that existed from 1943 to the early 1950s and fought against Soviet and Polish guerillas as well as against the Red Army. The UIA is notorious for cooperation with Nazi Germany and bloody punitive operations against the Polish and Jewish civilian population of the western Ukraine.

[5] Hebes (“Jids”, «жиды» in Russian) is a derogatory label for Jews in East Slavic languages (does not have a derogatory connotation in West Slavic languages).

 

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