Archive for October 7th, 2018


Deactivating activists – Odessa

October 7, 2018

When the blog first began a decade or so ago, it fairly regularly decried and lamented the dysfunctional and often distinctly uncivil society that was Ukrainian civil society.  While that still remains here and there, The Rubicon was crossed with the “Revolution of Dignity/EuroMaidan” when blood was spilled.

The wise and sage among civil society immediately recognised that the election of President Poroshenko was not about to swiftly bring a “new Ukraine”.  A battle remained to be joined to keep on occasion glacial movement toward a “new Ukraine”, for too many of the “old guard” remained in positions of power.  Nevertheless, Petro Poroshenko was acknowledged as the least worst option.

Perhaps President Poroshenko still is the least worst option among those who have declared their intentions to run for president in March 2019.  When a full list of runner and riders is known then that will become clearer – even if a subjective assessment.

However, there are also the activists – some of which are a plus for a civil society and generally law-abiding and then there are the activists who would be turned away from any civil society organisation with a modicum of civility.  There are then the activists who hide behind the label to deflect from their more dubious and occasionally distinctly criminal undertakings.

Not long ago an entry appeared in which an incident surrounding another well-known local activist from Odessa was seriously injured.  A thorn in the side of the local city governance he most certainly is.  Those from the relevant organisation were swift to point the finger at Mayor Gennady Trukhanov and City Hall when it came to those ultimately responsible.

Despite the history of Mayor Trukhanov and several others within City Hall being littered with more than a fair share of grave and gratuitous violence (not to mention organized criminality) during their rise to prominence, these particular allegations are yet to be proven – or as is more often the case where successful prosecutions and incarceration are almost always lacking, circumstances are yet to sufficiently persuade a reader with a high level of confidence.  Time however will tell – as it invariably does.

However, the activists in Odessa do not only have City Hall to contend with.

No differently to Ukrainian civil society prior to the “Revolution of Dignity/EuroMaidan”, there is a good deal on incivility and distrust among some of the local activists – not to mention some dubious and nefarious activities.

Several incidents over the last week in Odessa seemed to highlight the point – so perhaps that point should be made.

Currently the key irritant among the activist community in Odessa is a group called “Self-Active Youth”/Самостійна активна молодь (SAM) who during the summer months engaged in a physical confrontation with an activist group called “Ukraine All” – an event that gathered few headlines and no prosecutions.

In September SAM rose to prominence for trashing a “lotto market” on Dobrolovsky Avenue – again with no prosecutions.

A reader will understand that many “lotto markets” are a euphemism for illegal gambling establishments. Activists have been known to target such unlawful establishments under the justification of police inaction – albeit there are rumours that such acts are for the raising of funds for the activists and the embryonic beginnings of a protection racket.

SAM appears not to be entirely of Odessa but rather Kyiv – which is perhaps why there is friction.  Alternatively it may be that SAM has a modus operandi that simply irritates the activists of Odessa.  Perhaps it is both.

Whatever the case, approximately 25 armed men arrived at a hotel in Odessa and were promptly searched by police – and released and sent home after the police had given “advice” to those concerned and seized whatever unlawfully held weaponry they could.  Rumour would have it that these men arrived at the behest of SAM.

Is a reader spotting pattern of escalation?

All of which leads a reader to the events in Odessa of the 6th October when there was a very ill-tempered meeting between activists of SAM and the Odessa AutoMaidan in a hotel room on Lustdorf.  The main protagonists/leaders involved were Messrs Yevgeny Rezushkin (Odessa AutoMaidan) and Ivanov.

This ill-tempered encounter then led to car chases and shooting, damaged vehicles and gunshot injuries to Mr Rezushkin.

As the winter draws in, darkness falls earlier and earlier, and bulky jackets, hats and scarves are commonplace to hide both weapons and identifying features, a reader may rightly ponder just how this current tiff will further escalate.

Naturally the police will be aware and cautious of public opinion/perception when dealing with activists (and rightly so), but how will the authorities deactivate activists if they are so far only prepared to detain, advise and release?

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