3 May, Odessa: How a peaceful rally turned into anti-terrorism operation

Russia continues attempts to destabilise the situation in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, with the help of diversionists and militants. According to the Ukrainian special services, they are partly financed by the former president Viktor Yanukovich. The authorities of the country counteract to such activities with an anti-terrorism operation. The local police remains a weak link as it is either inactive, or openly supports pro-Russian militants. Thus, local population has to be involved into active resistance. For instance, in Odessa local inhabitants strongly repulsed an attack of armed pro-Russian militants. As the result 46 people died, more than two hundred were injured.

The scenario of attack on a peaceful pro-Ukrainian rally in Odessa on 2 May resembled the one implemented in Donetsk on 28 April. Several hundred pro-Russian militants, armed with sticks, knifes, firearms and grenades, attacked the rally participants. But on the contrary to Donetsk, pro-Ukrainian activists stood the attack and began a counter-attack. Numerous photo and video reports of the events in Odessa prove pro-Russian militants used firearms. As the result of the fights 46 people died; most of them (38 people) were killed in a fire in the House of Trade Unions. According to witnesses, pro-Ukrainian activists tried to help people who barricaded in the building to get out, but the latter shot back in return.

214 people, including one child, applied for medical treatment as the result of the conflict in Odessa. 88 of them were hospitalised, 27 were in a grave condition. Three people died in a hospital as the result of gunshot wounds and burns.

A complete photo report about the events in Odessa is available here.

A community dedicated to coordination of help to people who were wounded in Odessa was launched on Facebook.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Ukrainian foreign ministry said at least three citizens of the Russian Federation were involved in the armed conflict in Odessa. 172 people are detained in connection to the official criminal investigation, part of them were released after interrogations. SBU also says former president Yanukovich is involved in financing of activities of pro-Russian activists aimed at destabilising of the situation.

The head of the Odessa city police was fired as local law enforcements openly supported pro-Russian militants. There are photo and video reports that show police officers were present during a pre-attack briefing for pro-Russian activists. Ukrainian authorities do not rule out that representatives of law enforcement services will face criminal liability for the events in Odessa and Donetsk as some of the top officers are suspected to be recruited and paid by pro-Russian militants.

After the tragic events in Odessa activists in other southern and eastern regional of Ukraine have started receiving threats of “revenge for Odessa.” Pro-Russian activists attacked and severely beaten a priest and two children in Donetsk. Activists of Public Sector initiative from Lugansk Alexey Beda and Anna Mokrousova, and a student from Kyiv Igor Ortia in Slov’yansk were seized by separatists. In total, several dozens of civilians and officers of Ukrainian special services are kept hostage by pro-Russian forces. Seven representatives of the OSCE from Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark, and five Ukrainian citizens were freed; the SBU claim Russia is involved into their detention.

The second day of an active phase of the anti-terrorism operation in South and East of Ukraine resulted in:

- serious battle in Konstantinovka; people are reported wounded;

- in Lugansk pro-Russian militants went on an attack and started to draw up forces and build block-posts; two soldiers of the Ukrainian Interior Troops were wounded during  attacks on one of military bases and a military registration and enlistment office;

- five soldiers are reported captured from one of military bases in Mariupol;

- in Donetsk militants seized the building of the SBU, broke into the office of Industrial Union of Donbass (one of the owners is Sergiy Taruta, the governor of Donetsk Region); there were reports that local police ignored the attacks;

- in Kramatorsk pro-Russian militants used local population as a live shield;

- in Horlivka militants seized the building of the local police;

- in Andreevka, Donetsk Region, separatists started shooting from behind the backs of civilians during negotiations; as the result two Ukrainian soldiers were killed, 12 people were wounded;

- Slov’yansk remain under total control of pro-Russian forces.