Massacre in Ukraine. Memory of Odessa. Eight years ago, 46 ​​people died as a result of right-wing hatred and a lack of police intervention. Investigation did not take place (junge Welt)

Von Unai Aranzadi

There isn’t even a plaque commemorating the dead, let alone a statue or pantheon. Just a huge, inescapable building standing alone as a mausoleum for injustice. The large, cold and desolate esplanade that surrounds it perfectly reflects the silence and indifference to the crimes committed in this place in Odessa . It was May 2, 2014, and Ukraine had been ruled by the junta that emerged from the »Euromaidan« for two and a half months. Crimea aspired to join the Russian Federation, and tensions between Ukrainian and Russian sensitivities that would lead to the outbreak of the current war were brewing in Donbass. But although Odessa is a city raised by tsarist Russia, it survived the violence, triggered by »Euromaidan« and its aftermath in Crimea or in the Donbass are relatively unaffected. In that spring of 2014, Odessa seemed to be what it had always been said to be: a place that – except under Nazi occupation – had managed to retain a certain cosmopolitan identity, where Greeks, Ukrainians, Russians, Bulgarians and Turks – alongside many other peoples – lived together free from ideological, religious and ethnic conflicts. Nothing could be further from what was about to happen. 

Celebrations of May 1, 2014 (Labour Day) still took place in the city of Odessa in an orderly manner. First there was a demonstration, with one of the main banners reading: „Fascism will not prevail.“ This was followed by a peaceful encounter between the various left-wing currents with a mixture of Russian, Ukrainian and communist flags (a variety that there never happened again since that day). The next day, Odessa Chornomorest played a home game against Metalist Kharkov. As with most teams in the Ukrainian football league, the members of both teams are far-right. Also, at the time, almost all of the country’s football fans had agreed on a manifesto in defense of „Ukraine’s territorial integrity,“ an idea that sounds legitimate,

The plan of the hooligans, far-right and nationalist groups was to hold a march through the city before the May 2 game. As expected, clashes broke out between them and the city’s pro-Russian and left-wing population. The first clashes took place in central Odessa when Euromaidan opponents met the paramilitaries from the Right Sector, the neo-Nazi group that had led the protests in Kyiv since 2013. There were injuries on both sides and a pro-Maidan protester was even killed. However, the leftist and pro-Russian shock force was in the absolute minority against the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist sector, along with all the people who came to support them from outside.

One by one, the right-wingers, armed with axes, helmets and flak jackets, made their way through Ekaterinenskaya, Rischelevskaya, Aleksandrovsky and Bunina Streets, finally arriving on Kulinovo Promenade. This esplanade near the main train station is a central but somewhat desolate place with a large square that is sparsely developed apart from the Union House. On this open space and at the foot of the building, signatures were collected for various political causes of the left and the Russian-speaking population, including the release of several arrested comrades (the Communist Party was banned after »Euromaidan«),

When the left and pro-Russian citizens were completely encircled (some of them were pensioners just sitting at the tables and in the tents in the square), they preferred to take refuge in the Trade Union House, not only because some of those present worked there, but also because it is the only building in the entire large square. During the attack, unionists set up barricades inside the building to prevent neo-Nazis who gained access – even to the lobby – from getting to the upper floors, where they tried to hide. From the upper windows and the roof, they tried in vain to stop the onslaught of the attackers by throwing objects. So great was the number of wounded among the oppressed, that a field hospital was improvised on the first floor of the building with a found first-aid box. From there, the massacre picked up a frightening speed with Molotov cocktails being thrown into the union building. And it burned.

Within ten minutes of seeing the first flames, firefighters received numerous calls for help. Several of them reported that people jumped out of the house to avoid falling victim to the fire. The files show that there was a call for help to the fire brigade, which was rejected. Almost simultaneously with this call, the riot police finally arrived, but took no action. Several videos available online show people being thrown out of windows in free fall. Other pictures are even worse. You can see people throwing themselves out of the window and being attacked on the ground with sticks and stabbing weapons. Finally, the survivors who were not unconscious were taken to a „corridor“ as they left the building – where they were beaten again. In the end there were 46 dead and more than 200 injured. It is the largest massacre of European leftists since the end of the Second World War.

To date, no one has been brought to justice or convicted for these incidents, despite hundreds of witnesses being available, an extensive police presence and numerous video and photo recordings being made publicly available. In addition, many of the far-right have been praised by the Ukrainian government, while all sorts of wild theories have been circulated, including some that the left have set themselves on fire to cause a riot. Conversely, those who worked to clarify these events, such as the Ukrainian journalist Anatoly Shary, had to flee the country to save their lives.

Faring worse were other well-known investigators, such as Oles Busina, a Kyiv-ethnic Ukrainian writer who was assassinated after denouncing abuses by the Ukrainian authorities and promoting good-neighbourly relations with Russian citizens. As in the case of Odessa, this crime remained unsolved, despite the leads that led to the arrest of two members of the neo-Nazi group C14 (evidence of a trial disappeared in the hands of prosecutors).

Eight years after the massacre, all that remains at the foot of the House of the Unions is a piece of graffiti that reads „Toward Death“ with somber cynicism. No citizen and even the authorities have not tried to remove it.

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