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Two years since Odessa massacre: speculations and absence of court rulings

May 02, 8:26 UTC+3
The southern Ukrainian city of Odessa saw the biggest tragedy in its modern history two years ago, when 48 people were killed in mass disorders on May 2, 2014
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Fire at the regional trade union council building in Odessa

Fire at the regional trade union council building in Odessa

© Photo ITAR-TASS/ Maxim Voitenko, file

KIEV, May 2. /TASS/. The southern Ukrainian city of Odessa saw the biggest tragedy in its modern history two years ago, when 48 people were killed in mass disorders on May 2, 2014.

Unquiet situation

Shortly before the second anniversary of the tragedy, the situation in the city became tense.

On April 25, unknown assailants shelled from a grenade launcher the building of a bank, then an attack on a tent camp of those protesting against city mayor Gennady Trukhanov occurred. In a few days, unknown assailants opened fire from traumatic weapons on a passenger bus bound from Odessa to Kiev.

"The situation in Odessa now is even more dangerous than on May 1, 2014," Vladimir Sarkisyan, a member of the ‘May 2 Group’, which is involved in an independent investigation of the tragedy, said. "Some politicians began speculating on the topic, and there are forces in the city interested in destabilization of the situation."

Regional governor Mikhail Saakashvili warned President Pyotr Poroshenko of the danger of state collapse and called for deployment of national guard units to the region. Poroshenko instructed the police chief and the head of the national guard to deploy additional forces to Odessa to protect public order in the city.

Security measures

In order to maintain order on the anniversary of the Odessa massacre, 3,000 law enforcement officers, including 300 fighters of the ultra-right battalion Azov, will be brought to the Odessa streets. Security measures will be enhanced.

Governor against mayor

City mayor Gennady Trukhanov advised Odessa residents to refrain from participation in any actions on May 2. He said calls to come to Odessa were heard from different sides, there were threats to burn the city hall among them. He called the situation "alarming" and pointed to differences between the city and regional administrations.

Experts say that the standoff between Saakashvili and Trukhanov reached a new level.

Monopoly on truth

The preparation for the anniversary of tragic events in Odessa was marked with another scandal. The Ukrainian authorities selectively refused to provide access to the city to journalists who could tell the West the uncomfortable truth about events taking place there.

Odessa tragedy

The city of Odessa saw riots on May 2, 2014, during which soccer fans from other cities, as well as Right Sector 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 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. Some Ukrainian politicians asserted that the death toll reached 116 but that the Kiev authorities concealed the facts.

The authorities conducted an investigation and said 22 people were instigators of the disorders. Half of them were detained, and all of them are anti-Maidan supporters. At the same time, investigators have failed to discover evidence that the Trade Unions House was set on fire deliberately.

The Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel on November 7, 2015 criticized the investigation conducted by Ukraine’s authorities. The panel in particular discovered human rights violations during the probe.

The Council of Europe’s Director of Human Rights and Special Advisor for Ukraine Christos Giakoumopoulos has underscored that Ukraine is in for international condemnation for refusal to investigate murders on Maidan in February 2014 and the May 2, 2014 tragedy in Odessa.

In turn, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has pledged to conduct "a comprehensive investigation and find those guilty."

There have been no trials on the activity of law enforcers and rescuers two years after the tragedy. Member of the journalist and expert "May 2 Group" Sergey Dibrov said the key accusations in relation to law enforcers boil down to the fact that they did not prevent clashes. There are also many questions to rescuers, who could have reached the site of the massacre in 5 minutes but it took them about an hour to arrive.

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