ODESSA, May 15 /ITAR-TASS/. Forty-eight people died during the May 2 riots in Odessa provoked by the Right Sector radicals who arrived from Kiev and the so-called “maidan” self-defence militants, Ivan Katerinchuk, the head of police department of the Odessa region, said on Thursday.
“The 48 victims include 7 women and an underage child. The rest are men. Six of them died of bullet wounds; 32 got poisoned by smoke and carbonyl when fire broke out at the Trade Unions House; ten more crashed themselves to death when they jumped out of the windows trying to escape from fire. Three bodies remain unidentified,” Katerinchuk said.
He flatly denied Kiev’s allegations that the victims were citizens of Russia and Moldova’s unrecognized Republic of Transdniestria.
“All the indentified victims are the residents of Odessa and the Odessa region. Only two of them come from Nikolayev and Vinnitsa,” the Odessa police chief stressed.
According to him, 16 people have been arrested in connection with the Odessa fire, 33 have been put under house arrest. Police are checking the complicity of 12 more persons to the committed crimes. They include both supporters and opponents of the interim authorities in Kiev. Police have found two pistols, plenty of cartridges from various weapons and Molotov cocktails at the scene.
Odessa saw riots on May 2, during which soccer fans who came from the city of Kharkov, as well as Right Sector far-right ultranationalist movement militants and so-called “Maidan self-defense” representatives from Kiev organized a march along city streets.
Clashes with federalization supporters occurred during the march. Radicals set ablaze the Trade Unions House, where their opponents were hiding, and a tent camp where activists were collecting signatures for a referendum on Ukraine’s federalization and for the status of a state language for Russian.
At least 48 people died and more than 200 were injured in the clashes and the fire in the Trade Unions House. Another 48 people are listed as missing. Many Ukrainian politicians, including people’s deputy Oleg Tsaryov and Odessa regional council deputy Vadim Savenko, say the official death count figures are understated. They assert that the death toll reached 116 but that the Kiev authorities are concealing the facts.
“We really know what actually happened to the killed people - they were just listed as missing,” Savenko told journalists. He accused the Kiev authorities of “trying to free from blame those Right Sector and so-called ‘Maidan self-defense’ militants who organized the massacre in Odessa.”
Ukraine has been in turmoil after a coup occurred in the country in February. New people were propelled to power amid riots as security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovich to leave the country the same month.
After Crimea’s accession to Russia on March 18 following a referendum two days before, protests against the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories, with demonstrators seizing some government buildings and demanding federalization.
Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against pro-federalization activists.
The eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.