Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa

For two years, Ukraine’s U.S.-backed regime has balked at investigating dozens of arson deaths in Odessa and now is doing little as far-right nationalists rally for another confrontation, writes Nicolai N. Petro.

By Nicolai N. Petro

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.

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (From RT video)

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (From RT video)

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.

President Barack Obama and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine talk after statements to the press following their bilateral meeting at the Warsaw Marriott Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, June 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine talk after statements to the press following their bilateral meeting at the Warsaw Marriott Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, June 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Rather uncharacteristically, the region’s appointed governor, Mikheil Saakashvili (former president of Georgia), 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 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.

17 comments for “Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa

  1. Sojourner Truth
    May 4, 2016 at 00:50

    The Nazi Azov Battalion has been dispatched to “keep order” in Odessa.

    Guess how that will end?

  2. Peter Loeb
    April 29, 2016 at 10:54

    “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 i
    s never good” he said, adding “the enemy needs to be dealt with as he is always deal with in wartime–neutralized.”

    These views are in essence identical with those of most aggressor nations. In 1971 most nations.
    of the UN agreed that in 1967 Israel had been guilty of aggression and the General
    Assembly recommended a resolution of condemnation by the Security Council.Thirteen
    members of the Security Council–the executive of the UN—concurred but the resolution
    failed. US Secretary of State agreed with the Israeli position and directed the US Ambassador
    to the UN (I believe it was George HW Bush) to veto the resolution. All other “permanent
    members” of the UN Security Council have the identical right to veto any resolution as does
    the US.

    It should be noted that major acts of war in recent decades have NOT occurred under
    “international law”, the Charter of the United Nations. They have all been the result of
    “coalitions” operating outside the UN.

    One exception is the destruction of Libya which Russia did not veto. They have often
    confessed to this error in public. The resolution for action by the UN for “humanitarian
    reasons” was entirely disingenuous. A veto could have stopped it under the
    UN Charter. A veto could not have stopped it outside the Charter.

    Typically, nations try to persuade the UN to act or to find justifications according
    to international law under the UN Charter. A prime example is the invasion of
    Iraq. Failing this the US and the UK invaded anyway. (It is clear that
    when UK joined the US, the decision to invade had already been made by the US.)

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  3. inooc yahwehbiriina
    April 29, 2016 at 07:26

    It really gullible to hear the west talk or show some concern about the wellfare of oppressed people,mostly used as steping stone. others which cannot be used as stooge and steping stone ,are exterminated and eliminated using u.s intelligence,armaments media blockade ,media swindle and media lies, to protect ur imperialist interest. against ur subjects. free #biafra,free #kanu.

  4. incontinent reader
    April 28, 2016 at 13:15

    I’m waiting for a real human rights organization, and not these phoney baloney groups like Amnesty, or HRW, or Avaaz, to identify the perpetrators of these crimes and post them online in a directory for the world to see and track wherever they are, and then for some courageous judges to apply universal jurisdiction to issue arrest warrants, including even for officials like Clinton, Nuland, Pyatt, and their ilk.

  5. Abe
    April 28, 2016 at 12:41

    On September 18th, 2015, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned there the Ukrainian Government in strong language, regarding not only the February 2014 coup which had brought them to power in February 2014, but regarding also the 2 May 2014 massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Odessa.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, said, “Ukrainian authorities – former and present – had responsibilities to protect life both at Maidan and during the events of 2 May in Odessa, and their failure to do so had tragic results”

    The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

  6. Abe
    April 28, 2016 at 12:19

    “The United States had used the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine as cover for regime change in Libya, and attempted regime change in Syria. All the while it was fabricating atrocities to sway public opinion, it was in reality fueling sectarian extremists who were in reality carrying out the crimes against humanity the West was accusing Libya and Syria of perpetrating in fiction. This formula has been spun around in Ukraine.

    “Now the West is expending resources to cover up atrocities to prevent the ‘responsibility to protect’ from being invoked against them. The massacre in Odessa would have been marked as a turning point by the West for military intervention had it not been their own proxies who carried it out. Instead, the US has claimed, according to the BBC, that ongoing violence carried out by the regime in Kiev is ‘proportionate and reasonable.’

    “With the West not only covering up the atrocities being carried out by the regime in Kiev, but in fact aiding and abetting them, the violence will only escalate further.”

    Odessa Massacre Pushes Ukraine to the Edge
    By Tony Cartalucci (May 3, 2014)

    • April 28, 2016 at 14:02

      Nice to see you back And missed you

    • April 28, 2016 at 14:03

      Nice to see you back Abe missed you

      • bobzz
        April 29, 2016 at 12:28

        Yes, and I have missed F. G. Sanford.

      • Abe
        April 30, 2016 at 11:43

        Thank you, Cheryl and bobzz. I also have missed F.G.

  7. Liam
    April 28, 2016 at 10:26

    It’s hard to see the western powers willing to do something when, in actuality, it is they who are behind the people that conducted the massacre. They put them in power. They financed them. They have intentionally covered up their atrocities conducted against ethnic Russian civilians in east Ukraine for the past two years. The OSCE is directly complicit in this coverup and that fact can be verified by going to their Ukrainian Daily Reports page from yesterday and seeing for yourself how they intentionally neglected to mention that the Ukrainian armed forces killed 4 civilians in their vehicles on April 27th, 2016. That report states that the OSCE knows the direction of fire as West-South-West and that they recognize the artillery shells used as 122 mm heavy artillery. They know full well that that weapon can only have been fired by the Ukrainian forces who are stationed in that direction, yet they intentionally fail to mention that the Ukrainian army did it. This shows collusion. The OSCE must be exposed for their complicity in the intentional murder of innocent civilians by the Ukrainian army.

  8. Karel Vesely
    April 28, 2016 at 09:20

    International Consulting Group??? ….Democracy and intellectual freedom preachers and their’s dogma contradiction.

    To keep Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s spirit alive! And free press “presentation” of English speaking world.
    We are in year 2016 with old habits and remaining unfinished goals.
    Bigotry is still around, only it depends who is selecting whom,to stigmatize and stiffen!
    People who deny access to intellectual freedom act are overstepping their moral obligation to Americans ( English speaking world ) and getting us into Orwellian world of arrogance and hypocrisy. Chabad-Lubavitch Russian speaking communities in USA have free choice to read, not to read (or to ignore) Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s books Two Hundred Years Together as are offered on Amazon, but to the “rest” of Americans this is absolutely denied! Who is writing reviews actually for these Solzhenitsyn’s books? …not the “rest”!!!

    Dear friends!
    You as institution of higher learning in history, world affairs, journalism, literature,….teaching, researching influence of information medium (and its interpretations, manipulation) to be aware and I would like to ask You to help me into finding who gained “publishing rights in English” of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s books “Two Hundred Years Together” and remind to English speaking politicians, dignitaries that it was never printed globally in English for more than ten years after its issue. Are we in Newspeak age? Process of rewriting the past, control of the past being a vital aspect of the Commissars control over the present. Monopolized press, publishers and distributors are using theirs establishment to manipulate or even suppress information and intellectual freedom act for theirs own interpretations, as I am pointing in mine inquiry:
    “Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.” American Library Association

    Away from commissars in the candle’s light we read samizdats pages of this Great Humanist writer with hope to get into hands few more typewritten following pages (in 1960’s) and now…….few decades later, few time zones west we are back to candle’s light in regard of Solzhenitsyn’s work. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s books “Two hundred years together” still not published in English (lingua franca) after more then 10 years. Is this corporate abuse, conspiracy, censorship (Thought Police)?
    Solzhenitsyn and his books including “200 years together” should be part of educational curriculum pointing to man who stand-up to the evils of totalitarian oppression,…..and opening window to those events.
    Commissars of Thought Police in the forefather’s footsteps as in early years of last century Great Russia regions are mostly giving literary reviews to the contemporary goyims, as the historians, professors in higher learning. With Solzhenitsyn’s publication it is in conflict with there’s interpretation of some events, as documented in Wikipedia. Behind accusation of “anti semitism” they are imposing their supreme judge newspeak correctness via ownership of media. Solzhenitsyn’s “200 years together” is not on book shells of “free press” distributors. Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote not because of Nobel Price, but as human being who stand-up to the evils of totalitarian oppression with their Gulags and Thought Police.These western commissars at the time of Cold War priced Solzhenitsyn’s bravery, admired underground samizdats of forbidden literature and smuggling Bibles and other books into USSR.
    But now, because of Solzhenitnyn’s “200 years together” they missed to burn him as Jan Hus was in 1415; maybe they will unearth his bones and burn as heretic,with ashes into Jordan river-Death Sea(thoughts), it was done with John Wycliffe’s bones in 1428;…… or just burn books as the 7th Century BC when Jehoiakim, King of Judah, burned part of the prophet Jeremiah’s scroll, (Jeremiah 36). To the present day, the burning of books has a long history as a tool wielded by authorities in efforts to suppress dissenting or heretical views that are perceived as posing a threat to the prevailing commissars of Thought Police. But better ways is even not to allow to be this heretical book published…plebeians don’t deserve it. As was done in Chinese and Moslem world for several centuries without Gutenberg’s modern printing press.No press,no heretical prints to censor. Zealous “New speakers” gained English publishing rights for the purpose to actually completely block globally printing of Solzhenitsyn’s books. Maybe we should ask Mr.Putin to samizdat Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “200 years together” in English and underground smuggling into “free press” our world.This is “free press” witch is lecturing others all over the world. In these case, will You provide space on book shells for these smuggled Mr.Putins English samizdats? Please I would like to have one.
    You know,……. there should be room for two more books on the shells of “free press” distributors, when You offering selection of thousands, or are we really free from this new correctness, or in Dark Age under totalitarian Thought Police?
    Because You are part of this information chain (corporation), are You involve in this conspiracy ? I hope, You are not hiding behind the screens of new correctness as “human rights, women rights, gay rights, anti-semitism,…..” with black list, white list of forbidden literature, which can corrupt plebeian’s mind.
    We, as human being are different, we have different opinions, different goals,….just look at election of any developed country. I believe there are people who don’t like presentation of contents in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “200 years together” books,
    I would not argue, but facts are facts in some events.
    Taboo discourse addressed by Solzhenitsyn’s books was well documented in the writings of 1920’s, 30’s,….(as Winston Churchill)..but it was pronounced as anti-semite, lunatic and sealed in “Taboo box” by these historians, professors of higher learning commissars, it did not fit in theirs interpretation of “Official History”.Now, we entered with English non publication of Solzhenitsyn’s books into another stage of “Pandora Taboo Box” to be kept closed.
    P.S. I red 50-70% of this book in Czech PDF ,but I would like have English edition of books. Czech books are not available and reediting got into International Tribe of Thought Police death hole. What coincidence ?
    I admire Alexander Solzhenitsyn for his bravery,spirit, stand for free thought.

    Thank You. To keep Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s spirit alive!
    Mr.Karel Vesely, 79 Shadberry Dr. Toronto M2H-3C9

    • David Smith
      April 28, 2016 at 11:21

      Mr. Vesely, The Propertied Class Of The United States was only interested in Solzhenitsyn when they could use him for The Big Lie that the USSR murdered 66 million of it’s citizens and to chant “Gulag!!!Gulag!!!Gulag!!!”. After that, they were done with him.

    • Bob Van Noy
      April 28, 2016 at 11:36

      Thank you Karel Vesely, for your response, l for one am very interested in what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has to say, as a great writer, with experience in both Soviet and American society; he should be readily available to all of us. I will follow up and touch base with you by snail mail.
      Will you consider a review? And offer it to a forum such as this?

      • Baron Bukhgalter
        May 2, 2016 at 09:23

        Solzhenitsyn books are fiction (hudozhestvennaya literatura) and should NOT be viewed as historical facts. He has long ago lost all respect and credibility in Russia. Though a talented writer he, like many soviet dissidents, was financed by the US on a condition he writes anti Soviet material. “Gulag” in particular is full fallacies. He couldn’t possibly have had access to the “facts” he described. My dad, who served in the Soviet army in the 50’s as a guard in a labor camp confirms that Solzhenitsyn’s “recollections” on the subject are laughable fantasy. If yo want to read it, think of it like Orwell’s 1984.
        Here’s a good read in Russian:

    • Ol' Hippy
      April 28, 2016 at 16:22

      I have purchased used copies of Gulag and The First Circle. Read First Circle. Books are available as reprints or used, recommended reading for all interested parties. Harrowing!!

  9. Brad Benson
    April 28, 2016 at 08:00

    Don’t look for any help from the Western Media my friend. They are fully owned by the US Government, which is financing the people that are causing all the trouble. The upcoming violence will be blamed upon “Putin’s aggression”.

Comments are closed.