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Nationalists beat passerby in southern Ukraine on suspicion he supports Russia

July 23, 2014, 20:57 UTC+3 ODESSA

The incident took place in the historical center of Odessa

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ODESSA, July 23. /ITAR-TASS/. Activists of a local “Euromaidan” in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa have beaten a passerby for failing to pass “a patriotism test”, local TV channels reported Wednesday.

The incident took place in the historical center of Odessa. Demonstrators marching along the square carrying Ukrainian flags and anti-Russian slogans, thought the passerby was the owner of a Mercedes that had a St. George ribbon on the windscreen.

When the man tried to explain that he has nothing to do with the car, he was told to chant “Glory to Ukraine” - a slogan used by Ukrainian nationalists - and the mob started beating him, tearing up his clothes. Police interfered to save the man.

The St. George ribbon was established during the Russian-Turkish War of 1768-1774 to encourage nationals’ fidelity and valor for the good of Russia. The ribbon is now a symbol of Russian patriotism.

Bloody incidents are not rare in Odessa, a resort on the Black Sea, where, Ukrainian tour agencies’ representatives say, the tourist season has been disrupted due to events on Maidan in downtown Kiev, the May 2 mass disorders and hostilities in the southeastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Maidan is the name for downtown Kiev's Independence Square, which is the symbol of Ukrainian protests. The words “Maidan” and “Euromaidan” are used as a collective name for anti-government protests in Ukraine that started when then-President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the association deal with the European Union last year.

Earlier, more than a million tourists visited Odessa annually, but this year, their number dropped more than tenfold. According to tour operators, this year, tourists from Russia and Belarus, who earlier constituted up to 80% of vacationers, failed to come. Nationals of countries outside the former Soviet Union have also been reluctant.

Odessa saw riots on May 2, during which soccer fans who came from the city of Kharkiv, 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.

Infographics Who fights in Ukraine

Who fights in Ukraine

The political crisis in Ukraine led to the formation of many armed groups on its territory. Infographics by ITAR-TASS
Clashes with federalization supporters occurred during the march. Radicals set ablaze the Trade Unions House, where their opponents hid, 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. The attackers did not let anyone leave the burning Trade Unions House building.

At least 48 people died and 247 were injured in the clashes and the fire in the Trade Unions House. Another 48 people were listed as missing. Many Ukrainian politicians, including people’s deputy Oleg Tsaryov and Odessa regional council deputy Vadim Savenko, said the official death count figures were understated. They asserted that the death toll reached 116 but that the Kiev authorities concealed the facts.

At the end of last year, Yanukovych suspended the signing of an association agreement with the EU to study the deal more thoroughly. His decision triggered anti-government protests that often turned violent and eventually led to a coup in February 2014.

New people were brought to power in Kiev amid riots and ultranationalist rhetoric. Crimea refused to recognize the coup-imposed authorities, held a referendum and seceded from Ukraine to reunify with Russia in mid-March after some 60 years as part of Ukraine. The West and Kiev do not recognize Crimea's reunification with Russia.

Crimea’s example apparently inspired residents of Ukraine’s Southeast, who supported the country’s federalization. They started massive protests and formed militias.

Troops loyal to Kiev and local militias in the southeastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions are involved in fierce clashes as the Ukrainian armed forces are conducting a military operation to regain control over the breakaway regions, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums.

During the military operation, conducted since mid-April, Kiev has used armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. According to Ukraine’s Health Ministry, 478 civilians have been killed and 1,392 wounded in it. Many buildings have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s war-torn Southeast.

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