Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ukraine - More on Odessa

The NY times has this article.
"Everything that happened was like in a horror movie," said Nadiya Yashan, a Chornomorets supporter who accused pro-Russian militants among the away fans of launching a ferocious attack. 

 According to the article, there had been a football match between Kharkiv and Odessa.  Since the Russian sponsored provocations began it has become the custom of to put aside differences and join to support Unkraine.  suporters of the two teams had been walking together to the stadium. When they got to Gretska Street, they were jumped by armed men, wearing masks, in black attacked them, some shooting pistols...

 Many say Kiev supporters heard that shots had been fired at a square called Kulikovo Polye, or Kulikovo field, and ran there to find out what had happened. Others say they went there to torch the tent city that pro-Russian supporters had built in protest against Kiev.... 

The attackers were driven back and took refuge in the Union Centre, barricading themselves in and then going to the roof where they began throwing petrol bombs and shooting at the pro-Ukraine side who were throwing their own petrol bombs. 

"The fire engines came very late. The fire was raging. Those who hadn't been overcome by smoke, just started jumping out of windows. It's a tall building so you can imagine what happened," said an eyewitness. 

Who these pro-Russian armed attackers were is open to question as police identified among the dead and arrested Russian citizens and Moldovian citizens as I said yesterday.

 The Telegraph has probable the clearest article HERE
According to the Telegraph, the trouble started ahead of a Kharkiv-Odessa football match as rival fans marched together, joining a Ukrainian Unity march which had been organized for before the game.  The crowd, which included public, Maidan Self Defense Forces, and some members of Pravy Sector (Right Sector),  gathered on Cathedral Square.  (as I reported yesterday, they had been tipped off through Social Media that pro-Russian Thugs were intending to break up the march).

The pro-Russian activists wearing the orange and black ribbons (which is why they are called Colorado Beetles after the scourge of Ukrainian potato and tomato plants) were well armed for a street battle but so were the marchers, with bricks, clubs, petrol bombs and firearms (it is not clear if both sides had pistols or just the pro-Russians as I read conflicting reports, with some suggestion that the shooters were ex-Berkut). (The thugs must not have expected the level of resistance as they were outnumber 4 to 1).

A local news reporter who credited the police with trying to intervene said that as soon as they tried to separate the side, the shooting started and he saw several go down, including a police captain with injuries to liver and kidneys.  The reporter himself ended up in hospital with several wounds from "shrapnel).  Hospitals reported treating many gunshot wounds but couldn't say if they were from rubber or live bullets (???).  The first casualty died of a severed artery from a gunshot wound.

The battle lasted into the evening, when a group of pro-Russians, heavily outnumbered, managed to break away. Some witnesses say they melted through the police lines without being stopped. 

At this point, an enraged crowd decided to march on the House of Trade Unions, located beside a park where pro-Russians had set up a small protest camp some weeks ago. ”They decided to clear them out. They were angry after what had happened on the streets,” said Alexandra, a local resident who was among the crowd that day.

The pro-Maidan football fans and self-defence units quickly destroyed the camp, setting fire to the tents. The pro-Russians tried to make a last stand on the steps of the House of Trade Unions, throwing up barricades around the great stone pillars in front of the doors. Finally, they were forced to retreat inside.

Molotov cocktails were thrown by both sides.  Whose petrol bomb started the fire they may never know.  Videos seem to show the fire starting behind an unbroken window on the third floor.  An investigation will determine where the fire started. According to TCH (TSN, see link below) the fire started on the upper floors which were too far for people on the ground to throw petrol bombs, so it seems it may have been started by the pro-Russian side accidentally.  Part of the investigation will include determination of exactly what gas killed most of the dead inside the building as reports were that they were overcome very quickly.

I am guessing that the campsite was of more or less peaceful demonstrators and certainly not the instigators of the fight, nor the shooters.  There were several stories on TCH (TSN) website (http://tsn.ua/politika) which I read using Google Translate.

An Odessa city council member died about 4:00 am after the riots. Cause of death not released.  A child was among the victims of the violence in which 43 people were killed.  Of 214 injured including 13 soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard, 88 were hospitalized with 27 in serious condition.  The Ukrainian Security Force report that of the 172 arrests, many were Russians or Moldovians and the SBU has begun criminal proceedings against 10.  The SBU has passed on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs documents taken from those arrested proving Russian citizenship. The pro-Kremlin activists are "hunting" for those involved on the pro-Maidan side and are distributing photos and addresses on social media. I mentioned this threat yesterday).  Odessa is bracing for extreme violence on May 9th which is Soviet VE Day.

In other news, Kazakhstan is initiating a referendum on leaving the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Eurasian customs union as they have received no benefit from it.  Watch Putin start to move in on the primarily Russian north of Kazakhstan if that happens.

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