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Odessa residents are to protest against political reprisals in Ukraine

March 23, 2014, 1:41 UTC+3 ODESSA
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ODESSA, March 23, /ITAR-TASS/. Public organizations in Odessa have organized a march against political reprisals and the unlawful seize of power in Ukraine that will take place on Sunday. The protesters will demand the release of Anton Davidchenko, the leader of the Narodnaya Alternativa (People’s Alternative) council that coordinates the work of regional public organizations who was arrested by Ukraine’s security services, and an end to prosecution of other activists charged with encroachment on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The Ukrainian authorities have increased reprisals and provocations against the leaders of the protest movement in Odessa in recent days. That is why the people of Odessa believe that it is their duty to take to the streets and show that Odessa is not going to surrender, the march’s organizers said in a recently released statement.

The aim of the “Not a Step Back!” action is to demonstrate that the arrests will not stop the people of Odessa from fighting for their lawful rights. They demand that the authorities hold a referendum on de-centralization of power in Ukraine; grant the status of a state language to the Russian language and change the country’s foreign policy course.

They were opposed by local pro-European supporters who asked a court to forbid the march but the court turned their lawsuit down. Besides, they handed over a blacklist of people, who in their view should be arrested for “separatist remarks” and “beatings of journalists and activists”, to prosecutors. They include the former governor of the Odessa region, his aides and deputies as well as leaders of public organizations who organized a collection of signatures in favour of the referendums.

Thousands of people gather in Odessa every weekend to support the aforesaid demands. More than 10,000 people took to the streets last Sunday, March 16. They carried huge flags of Ukraine, Russia and Crimea chanting, “Referendum!”, “Ukraine and Russia Together!”, “Fascism Will Not Pass!” and “Odessa is a Russian City.” They urged the authorities to stop a misinformation campaign in the local press and end pressure on television channels, which support the pro-Russian opposition and re-transmit Russian TV programmes.

On Sunday, the demonstrators are planning to march to the consulate of Poland in Odessa to remind the Poles of the Volyn tragedy, when Ukrainian nationalists massacred tens of thousands of Polish civilians in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia during WWII. After that, the protesters will march to the regional prosecutor’s office to demand an end to reprisals launched against their associates.

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