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Odessa – The morning after

May 4, 2014

Today’s entry is difficult to write.

It is not that there is nothing to say of course – it is a question of how to find the right words.

Today begins 3 days of official mourning in Odessa for those who lost their lives – that is perhaps all that needs to be said.

For those who follow me on twitter, you will be aware the events in Odessa erupted around me – quite literally.  “Live tweeting” is not my forte, and it has to be said, after several hours it is quite draining in such circumstances.

For all the journalists that tried to get interviews yesterday, I know you are doing your jobs, but I do not need 15 minutes of fame – particularly under such circumstances.   You are free to use my tweets and extracts from blogs of course.

http://bambuser.com/v/4585457

There will be a great many ugly videos from Odessa on the Internet – and quite rightly – it was an ugly scene.  But if there is one video I would bring to the attention of my readers it would be the above – one of pro-Ukrainian unity people trying to save the lives of pro-separatists from within Union House.

Undoubtedly it will not get media coverage it deserves otherwise, as it fails to assert any black verses white,  good verses evil, east verses west, democracy verses autocracy or radical majority verses radical minority narratives.

As I tweeted yesterday, the events turned out to be a rout for those opposed to The Kremlin plans, and a disaster for those that agreed with The Kremlin.  Ultimately it became a catastrophe claiming dozens of lives, many dead even before the events and fire at Union House.

I suppose I should feel somewhat reassured and contented that Odessa clearly rejected The Kremlin’s separatist designs – but I never doubted that it would.  Living here, that was quite clear despite any western media stereotyping of the “south” and “east” or Kremlin propaganda attempting to raise doubts.

I had hoped however, such a forceful rebuttal would come at the elections both nationally and also for the city mayor.  I anticipated the city to vote overwhelmingly for Petro Poroshenko in the national elections and also return Eduard Gurvitz as mayor.  A clear national unity and anti-federal message – at least for now when providing The Kremlin with bite-sized chunks of Ukraine would be clearly a stupid thing to do.

However it seems that message has been delivered in other far sadder ways.

The names, the ages, the nationalities of those who died or were seriously injured will no doubt emerge.  Some are clearly local people and others most certainly will not be.  Naturally the city will feel more sorrow for its own that have perished than for others from without.  The identity politics of “them” and “us” and all that.

That this confrontation was clearly orchestrated at a core level between two well prepared groups of pro-separatists and pro-unity Chernomoretz football fans there is no doubt.  That the public spontaneously joined the side of the pro-unity Chernomoretz fans I also saw with my own eyes.

Perhaps the violence was something that perversely had to happen.  Unease would have grown toward the Victory Day holidays on 9th May when determined provocations where certainly expected in Odessa.  It was no secret – they were expected, and expected to be violent.  Maybe it will still manifest itself – so soon after the events of yesterday it is difficult to judge.

Questions will no doubt be raised over the actions and inactions of the city administration and institutions.  Some of it will be fair and some undeserved.

I have little else I want to write today about the events in Odessa.  I will perhaps return to them.

 

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3 comments

  1. Thank you for your great blog and insight. Although I totally support the free and united Ukraine point of view, I take no joy whatsoever in which side had the most casualties. It was just a very sad day for all in what is a beautiful city. My family and I have special memories of our time there, and like in Kyiv, these special places are now tarnished in blood. Let’s hope Putin stops this charade and remembers what it is to be a human being. I shall not hold my breath waiting though. Thank you once again.


  2. Thanks for the commentary and your thoughts – I have been trying to figure out events in Odessa yesterday, though we all know the sad conclusion.

    I am a Briton who was very active in the Maidan protests, saw many corpses and quiet a bit of gunfire, knew two people who died, etc.; and I know it’s kind of emotionally draining and not something you might want to talk about too much – at least at this stage. One difference might be that it was a slow-drawn-out thing here; the Odessa situation came from the blue.

    As you point out though, I think there is so much unresolved tension inside Ukraine – for instance, the role of the police as enforcers of local power rather than protectors of life, property and the state – that perhaps all these upheavals are kind of fated; the birth pangs of a new and more self-aware Ukrainian state.

    On a few occasions I have thought about trying to contact you. I have never really kept a blog or diary of my experiences here in Kyiv to direct people to; though now I am forgetting stuff and keeping making various online postsI think I should do, and have set up a Facebook page here:

    https://www.facebook.com/brit.barricades.

    I hope the Slavyansk ‘Anti Terrorist Operation’ ends swiftly and with minimal bloodshed, though i am inclined to think it could get quite bad – the pro-separatist militias still control the arms depot and many of them would appear to have little to lose by fighting to the end. Still, I think that if the govt can’t get it together this time, and the 16 May separatist ‘referendum’ is held, then we are looking at a Transdniester-style state (technically part of Ukraine; run by local elites; influenced by Russia) in Lugansk and Donetsk Oblasts.

    If you would like to get in touch by email, I would be very glad to hear from you at jonbarrow@hotmail.com


  3. Yesterday (at least) 38 people lost their lives, regardless of their ethnic orientation. It reminds me of many similar episodes happened in the past in my country, too. Anyway, your words leave me some hope for a brighter future in south, east, and the whole Ukraine as soon as possible. No one deserves this tragedy.



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