FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Odessa: Averting Another Massacre

by

May 2 will mark the second anniversary of one of the most horrific, politically inspired tragedies in modern European history — the fire in the Odessa trade union building that killed 48 people and wounded another 200.

Numerous pleas by the United Nations and the European Union for a thorough investigation into the causes of this tragedy have gone unanswered. Multiple government commissions, both local and national, have been unable to move the case forward, partly because some of the evidence has been marked secret. Last November, the International Consulting Group, set up by the Council of Europe, issued a scathing report about this lack of progress, and the government’s apparent disinterest in bringing those responsible to trial.

Now, as we approach the second anniversary of these tragic deaths, and the commemoration of Soviet victory in the Second World War on May 9, some of the same groups involved in the first tragedy are quite openly preparing for a second round.

To this end, the leading nationalist spokesman, Dmitro Yarosh, the former leader of the Right Sector, was invited to Odessa this month. There he explained his credo to his followers: “I am just not a democrat. My worldview is that of a Ukrainian nationalist. I believe that popular national government is very good, but only when democracy does not threaten the very existence of the state. We sometimes play at democracy with the likes of Kivalov [a member of parliament from Odessa — NP], with [Odessa’s mayor] Trukhanov . . . but in war time this is never good” he said, adding “the enemy needs to be dealt with as he is always deal with in wartime–neutralized.”

Recently, both the military wing of his Yarosh’s new organization, and the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, have been mobilized and, according a statement they released to the press, are ready to move on Odessa at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, local Euromaidan activist Arsen Grigoryan has given authorities just one week to prevent any commemorative gatherings from taking place on May 2, especially ones that might include government officials, or “fake parliamentarians from Europe.” If the authorities refuse to heed these warnings, he said, the consequences will be on the head of Odessa’s mayor, Gennady Trukhanov.

The radical nationalist’s sudden concern seems to have been inspired by the groundswell of participation at this year’s commemoration of the liberation of Odessa from Nazi occupation on April 10.

Traditionally this is a rather low key event, that involves a ceremonial wreath laying at the monument to the Unknown Sailor in Shevchenko Park. This year, however, several thousand people joined the wreath laying ceremony, some of whom even added Russian colors to the wreaths. This outrage caught the attention of vigilant nationalists, who then moved to disrupt the ceremony. In an unexpected twist, however, local police intervened to defend the participants against the now customary assault by radicals.

The nationalists blamed state prosecutor, Georgy Stoyanov, for this debacle, and proceeded to block entry to the state procuracy building until he was removed from office. After succeeding in this effort, they promptly moved their protest to Odessa’s City Hall, where they are now seeking the resignation of the popularly elected mayor of Odessa, Gennady Trukhanov.

Rather uncharacteristically, the region’s appointed governor, Mikheil Saakashvili, has yet to voice his opinion about this confrontation. On the one hand, he stands to gain political clout if he can shift the blame for these disturbances to mayor Trukhanov, whom he bitterly resents for ostensibly thwarting his reform efforts.

On the other hand, however, he surely knows that the radical nationalists view him as just another by-product of the corrupt and treacherous Poroshenko regime; moreover, one whose only loyalty is to his own political ambitions. Perhaps most unforgivably, for radical nationalists, he is also a foreigner.

All sides are now mobilizing in what is shaping up to be a decisive test of wills between government authority and the radical nationalists. The city is being flooded by radical activists, and governor Saaskashvili says that a thousand additional National Guard troops are going to be deployed to Odessa where, as he puts it, there are clear signs of “the collapse of Ukraine as a state.” The Ministry of Internal Affairs, however, says it has received no such orders, and is merely advising Odessans to prepare for “hot May holidays.” The stage is nearly set for the next bloody confrontation between the “patriots” and the “fascists.”

This time, however, the West need not stand by helplessly and watch. There is still a chance of averting another tragedy, if the Western media draws timely attention to the current preparations for it. A significant Western media presence on the ground during the critical week from May 2 to May 9, could conceivably lead the radical nationalists to reconsider their violent strategy.

Turning a blind eye to the gathering storm, by contrast, will only embolden the most radical elements in society, and further erode respect for law and order in Ukraine.  As the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson, Mark Toner, has aptly noted, when asked about this issue, “all of us bear responsibility to do everything in our power to reduce the capacity of militants and extremists to carry out these kinds of violent activities.”

Nicolai Petro is an academic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian affairs, currently professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He spent 2013-2014 as a US Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinnes: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail