Odessa Report 2: Mayday and the May 2nd Remembrance in Odessa

Photo above; Fascists marching in Odessa, May 2, 2019, in the evening following the memorial for those slain by a brutal fascist attack on May 2, 2014. ~from a video by Pippa Bartolotti

by Joe Lombardo of the United National Antiwar Coalition

Alex on the left, survivor of the massacre, May 2, 2014

After taking an overnight train from Kiev, we arrived in Odessa and were met by two anti-Maidan supporters who have been our very kind hosts.  After resting for a while, we met with Alex Meyevski, who was a survivor of the attack on the protesters in Kulikovo Field at the House of Trade Unions on May 2, 2014.

Alex Meyevski told us how he survived by going into the House of Trade Unions building and going to higher floors, feeling his way along the wall when smoke made it impossible to see and finally being rescued.

The details of the attack are somewhat confusing but basically on May 2nd there was a football (Soccer) game between two Ukrainian cities that brought fans from around the country to Odessa including many right-wing, pro-Maidan, fascist minded people from the Right-Sector, which was a coalition of right-wing groups.  Odessa is a Russian speaking city that mostly was opposed to the events in Kiev at Maidan Square. EuroMaidan and anti-Maidan people confronted each other at the city center about 1 mile from Kulikovo Field where the majority of the killings took place.

There is confusion and different stories about what took place at the city center but there seemed to have been collaboration between the police and people who arrived by bus with guns and started shooting, killing 3 of the EuroMaidan supporters.  The anti-Maidan supporters say the shooters were provocateurs bused in to incite the situation that led to the later killings in Kulikovo Field at the House of Trade Unions.  With the help of the police, the provocateurs from the city center who arrived by bus were allowed to leave the area.   Their identities are not known, and none were arrested or prosecuted.

The Right-Sector people at the football game got word through text messages that they were marching on Kulikovo Field to clear out the anti-Maidan protesters and they left the game early to join the attack.  Cell phone videos show them attacking the people at Kulikovo Square who were having a protest vigil against the Maidan coup in Kiev.  Many of the people at the Kulikovo encampment took refuge in the House of Trade Unions building.  The right-wing attacked them, beat them with bats, shot at them and Molotov cocktails were thrown.  The building was set on fire.  Although the fire station is only about 1 block away, the fire brigade did not arrive for three hours.  Police did not try to stop the attackers. Some of the attackers entered the building and released gas.  Many of the anti-Maidan protesters jumped from the windows and were beaten, some to death on the ground.  The official figure is that 48 people were killed and over 100 wounded but many of the anti-Maidan people say this is a low number because if there were over 50, automatic investigations by international organizations would have had to be conducted.

People told us they believe that the authorities wanted this confrontation to try and stop the anti-Maidan protests that were happening in Odessa and elsewhere.

Although the faces of those shooting and those making and throwing Molotov cocktails are seen in many videos, none of them have been arrested.  Although none of the perpetrators of the massacre were arrested, several of the survivors of the massacre were arrested.  The next day as people came and saw the burnt bodies, about 25,000 Odessans marched to the police station and freed the arrested survivors.

Crowd at the House of Trade Unions to honor those killed

Each week the people of Odessa hold a vigil to remember those killed and once a year on May 2nd they come in numbers to lay flowers and remember the killings

This is the fifth year of the May 2nd commemorations.  UNAC has sent a delegation of people here in the past.  They were international observers and express solidarity with those killed and told their stories.  Each year small groups of right-wingers have made threats and have tried to disrupt the proceedings.  To them, the killings are a victory.

Fascists Attend the Memorial to Intimidate

This year we heard that the right-wing was coming in numbers and bringing people from around the country.  They planned to have a march and rally at 7 PM.  We went early to Kulikovo Field on May 2nd to see the steady stream of people from Odessa come all day long to deliver flowers in front of the blocked off and burned out House of Trade Unions.  When we got there, we noted there were some people wearing swastikas.  We approached them and they started saying that all the people there were Russians and the people who had been killed were Russians.  In reality, all the people killed were Ukrainians not Russians.  As people heard them talking, they gathered around and confronted them.

Police stand by and do not respond to fascist aggression

Our hosts were afraid that a big incident could occur and insisted that we leave.  We did leave but came back at around 4 PM when a big crowd was expected because the family members of those killed were expected at 4 PM.  When we got back to Kilikovo Field, there was a big crowd and also small groups of fascists who were there to deny the families their right to mourn their dead.

Fascist March through Odessa May 2, 2019, from video by Pippa Bartolotti

They chanted fascist slogans and the crowd responded with chants such as “fascism never again.”  At one point I saw a pushing match between the two groups.  The Fascists there only numbered about 40 or so and were badly out numbered.  The police were all around but stayed back and did not try to block the fascists. The police told the family members that they could not use their sound system to address the crowd.  Balloons were released to remember those killed.

At 7 PM the fascist groups gathered and marched to a rally at the City Center.  There were about 1000 of them, and they had mobilized and come into Odessa from around the country.  Their 1000 did not compare to the all-day steady stream of Odessans who came to the House of Trade Unions.  The fascists marched noisily through the city.  One chant we heard was “Hang communists from the trees.”  When they got to their rally site, they were allowed to use their sound system to give speeches and play militaristic music.  Most people in the city ignored them and went about their business.

Below is a video of the fascists in Odessa May 2nd, chanting threats after dark.

The anti-Maidan people in Odessa have been demanding an investigation into what happened on May 2nd, 2014 but the authorities have not done one.  They did not cordon the area at the time or collect evidence, and have refused to even prosecute those visibly carrying out murder and criminal acts in the many videos that were taken.  This year the UN has called for an investigation.  See: here.  This is great, but 5 years too late.

The events of May 2nd, 2014 in Odessa were a direct result of the US supported coup that developed in Kiev on Maidan Square.  The US encouraged and helped organize the Maidan events that turned violent as right-wingers from around the country descended on Maidan Square, intent on overthrowing the elected government.  It is reported by many that they received money from the US to stay in the square.  US politicians showed up to encourage them and set plans in motion for who would be the next leader of Ukraine.  The leadership after the coup formed a government in which members of the right-wing Svoboda party and the Right Sector held prominent positions.  One of the leaders of the right-wing armed movement at Maidan, Andriy Parubiy who is also seen on videos delivering weapons to right-wingers in Odessa, is today the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament. The Ukrainian Nazi, Stephen Bandera gained new prominence, and the fascist movement was encouraged and grew and became very public.

This is the government which the US helped create and supports.  American Natalie Jeresko became the new finance minister in Ukraine, and the son of Joe Biden, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, took a role on the board of the largest natural gas company in the country.

We have seen US sponsored coups in the image of what happened in Ukraine many times throughout history.  Today, they are trying to make such a coup in Venezuela, which can only lead to misery for the Venezuelan people as the neo-liberal policies of privatization and extreme pressure on workers to make more profit for the Wall Street backers is imposed.

This neo-liberal model has been a complete failure in Ukraine and has brought none of the gains that were promised.  As the US claims that people are leaving Venezuela in large numbers – which is due to harsh sanctions that have been imposed – they do not speak about the numbers leaving Ukraine.  In the past years the population of Ukraine has gone from 56 million to around 35 million as people leave to seek jobs and a future in other European countries.

We must demand of the US government:

US out of Ukraine!
No Ukraine membership in NATO!
Stop fascism from Charlottesville to Odessa!
Investigate the killings of May 2nd, 2014!
Hands off Venezuela!


Joe Lombardo is a life long peace activist and union organizer.   He is a co-founder of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and a member of the Administrative Committee.

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