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Odessa after the massacre: nine years later the wounds are still fresh

Steve Sweeney

2 мая 2023 г.

*****

Sasha gently rolls back the sleeve of her jumper to reveal scarred and damaged skin.


“It still hurts me sometimes even now,” she tells me as we sip coffee in a Moscow cafe. “Doctors said it would be like this for some time. But it has been nearly ten years.”


Sasha [not her real name] was one of the hundreds injured in the Odessa Trade Union House massacre on 2 May 2014.


“I was lucky, I managed to escape. They tried to burn us all alive. The police stood and watched as they shot at us and beat us.


“Many jumped from the windows and were attacked as they hit the ground. It was like hell,” she says.

At least 48 people were killed as far-right Ukrainians set the building alight after pro-Russians took shelter there from a baying mob.


Fighting for the truth


Nine years later, the survivors and the victims’ families are still seeking truth and justice for their loved ones amid a cover-up by the state and the connivance of western institutions including the Council of Europe, the European Union and others.


In fact, the only criminal cases that have been opened by the Kiev administration are against those who were attacked, as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov explained earlier this year.


“We know the truth,” Sasha says. “We know who did this and they are being protected. But we will not give up. Those who died deserve justice. We need to heal the pain.”


She was on the streets of Odessa just months after the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in a US-backed coup after he refused to sign a deal integrating Ukraine more closely into the European Union.


“We objected to this meddling, this was not what we wanted. Fascists were taking over the country because of the west. They were helping them to control Ukraine and to kill us,” she says.


“I will never forget that day for as long as I am alive. The Banderists and fascists were killing people and the whole world looked away,” Sasha continues. “All we wanted was to be treated like humans, but they treated us like animals, cockroaches. This was terrorism.”


Fascist pogrom organised by Nato’s puppets

The pogrom was coordinated by the Right Sector, a coalition of ultranationalist forces founded by Dmytro Yarosh, a virulent antisemite and supporter of Ukrainian wartime Nazi-collaborator Stepan Bandera.


They took advantage of a football match held between Odessa and Metallist Kharkiv on the day of the massacre, rallying the support of right-wing ultras from both teams’ supporters.


“We knew there was going to be trouble on the day of the match. These teams had a reputation for violence, but police did nothing to stop them. It started when they marched in the city,” she explains.

There had been an agreement reached to peacefully clear the Kulikov field, the site of a pro-Russian encampment that had been set up in the months after the Maidan coup.


This was reportedly to make way for Victory Day celebrations on 9 May, the date which marks the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.


But as the violence started, the camp was set ablaze, causing people to flee to the nearby trade union building for shelter.


“It is ironic we agreed to move out of the camp but then it was attacked by the Ukrainian nazis, the same people defeated [in 1945]. But here [in Ukraine] they did not go away,” Sasha says.


Hundreds gathered there, and soon after it too came under attack.


“I was in a room that was filled with smoke very quickly. We could hardly breathe. As I left there were bodies on the floor. I could not help them.


“Some people started jumping out of the windows. I heard the sound of their bodies hitting the floor and they were beaten to death.


“On the ground [outside] people stopped us from leaving. I could hear the football fans chanting, singing Ukraine’s anthem …


“Nobody was coming to help. The fire was spreading and there was shooting too. I thought I was going to die,” she recalls.


The Ukrainian police were not passive bystanders – although they did nothing to help, they were filmed firing their guns into the trade union building.


Crowds below chanted “Burn, Colorado, burn”, a reference to the pro-Russian colours of ribbons worn by some of the protesters. As the fire tore through the building, the Ukrainian national anthem was sung by those gathered outside, taunting those trapped inside as they burned to death.


The Nazi-era slogan – Slava Ukraini, now frequently to be heard on the lips of Kiev’s western sponsors – was shouted as people were dying inside the building, whose walls were daubed with swastikas and the name “Galician SS”.


“We escaped, but nobody helped us,” Sasha says, adding: “It was terrifying. After the attacks people were afraid to leave their homes. We didn’t want to go outside for weeks.”


No retribution for the perpetrators


Despite the admissions and footage clearly identifying many of those responsible, the perpetrators remained free.


In the aftermath of the fire, the Right Sector celebrated the deaths, describing the massacre as “yet another bright page in our fatherland’s history”.


Yarosh, whose organisation claimed responsibility for “coordinating” the attack, even became a candidate for the Ukrainian presidency and later an MP. He was never investigated by Ukrainian authorities – and he was not alone.


Svoboda party MP Irina Farion declared: “Bravo Odessa … Let the devils burn in hell’ – yet she also was not charged.


Fatherland party lawmaker Lesya Orobets published a statement on her Facebook page on 2 May celebrating the “liquidation” of the oppositionist kolorady – a derogatory term for those who hold pro-Russian views. She accompanied her post with several photographs of headless corpses.


Aleksey Goncharenko, who took part in the Odessa protests, was later elected to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.


These are the so-called democrats backed by the west.


Sasha made her way to the roof as the blaze spread. Exactly what happened inside the building is unclear. Many died there, some of them outside, their bodies found riddled with bullets.


“They [Ukrainian authorities] did nothing while these people celebrated the burning. They hate us and do not have respect for life. We know who our killers are. They are the government.”


The United Nations has criticised Kiev for its unwillingness to carry out proper investigations into the massacre. But, unsurprisingly, there has been a concerted effort to cover up the truth by western powers, which have tried to shift the blame onto Russia.


Petro Poroshenko, who was later to be installed as Ukrainian president, led the charge accusing ‘Russian provocateurs’ and supporters ‘shipped in from Transnistria’ of coming to Odessa to foment violence.


He even accused Moscow of placing gas canisters in the trade union building to deliberately increase the number of casualties. But this has been widely dismissed, including by those not allied with Moscow.

An eyewitness report for the CIA-backed Radio Liberty said: “On 2 May, 48 people died. None of them were ‘Russian saboteurs’ or ‘Transnistrian fighters’ or ‘bussed-in Bandera anarchists’. All were residents of Odessa and the surrounding suburbs.”


Sasha confirmed this and said the only outsiders were the hundreds that had been bussed in the night before the provocations started, along with the football supporters who had been urged to join in with the attacks.


Western media and politicians continue to look the other way


On today’s anniversary, commemoration events have been banned in Odessa once again, as pro-Kiev forces seek to erase the event from memory. Ukraine’s western backers have also colluded in order to downplay the role of far-right Ukrainian forces in the attack.


The Council of Europe’s international advisory panel described the events of May 2014 as “clashes”, as if both groups were equally responsible for the massacre.


But the IAP drew its conclusions from the May 2 Group – made up of journalists and others – many of whom justify the actions of the Ukrainian government while denouncing criticism of Kiev as “pro-Russian propaganda”.


Solidarity for the victims of this heinous massacre has also been in short supply from ‘Ukrainiacs’. Last year passed without a mention from most of those displaying the yellow and blue flag in their social media profile pictures.


The British-based so-called ‘Ukraine Solidarity Campaign’ – in reality a front for the social-imperialist Alliance for Workers Liberty – has gone so far as shamefully to recycle claims that describing the attack as a massacre is “Russian propaganda”, blaming the victims for their own deaths.


It was, of course, these opportunists that organised the poorly attended demonstration last year which saw a handful of trade unionists chanting “Arm, arm, arm Ukraine!” as they marched through the streets of London – just as then prime minister Boris Johnson was in Kiev promising to do exactly that.


We now also know that he was there to strongarm puppet actor-president Volodymyr Zelensky and prevent him from signing a peace deal or entering negotiations with Russia to bring an end to the conflict.


Of course, these supporters of the Kiev regime cannot draw attention to the massacre, or admit who was responsible – to do so would blow a major hole in the narrative that there are no fascists or neo-nazis in Ukraine, which they hail instead as a beacon of freedom and democracy.


Nine years on from the attack, the victims of the Odessa massacre have largely been forgotten by the west, sacrificed as pawns in its proxy war against Russia and abandoned by those who claim to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.


The events in Odessa were just one part of an orgy of far-right violence unleashed in the wake of the western-backed Maidan coup.


The Ukrainian neo-nazis – emboldened after the Odessa massacre – carried out another attack in the city just seven days later on Victory Day, shooting dead an unknown number of unarmed demonstrators in an incident that was not even reported in the west.


The rest is history. Today the conflict continues, having escalated into a Nato proxy war and the battle being waged in the areas now incorporated into the Russian Federation.


But for those who lost loved ones in the Odessa Trade Union House massacre, and for those who survived, the struggle for justice continues.


“Please raise our voices. Tell the world not to forget the people of Odessa and our struggle for justice,” Sasha says. “Only then can we put out the flames that continue to burn.”

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