#OdessaTragedy relatives speak of their hopes for Ukraine reconciliation

1132238Relatives of some of the victims of a bloodbath that cost the lives of scores of people in the Ukraine port city of Odessa two years ago have spoken of their hopes of eventual reconciliation between the two sides in the country’s bitter conflict.

Speaking on the second anniversary of the so-called Odessa Tragedy on 2 May, which left 48 pro-Russia activists dead in 2014, the families expressed hope that a solution can still be found to the war in the east of Ukraine.

Olena Radzikhovska, a university lecturer, whose 26-year-old son Andrey was among those killed in the clashes on 2 May 2014, said that while a peaceful resolution would be “difficult” she still hopes the tragic loss of her engineer son “will not be in vain”.

She told this website: “There is not a day goes by that I do not mourn the loss of my dear son but if any possible good can come from the tragic events of the day it would be for an end to the continued bloodshed in my beloved country.”

She was speaking on the second anniversary of the rioting and a fire in Odessa that is still to be fully investigated.

In one of the most deadly episodes in Ukraine’s turbulent 2014 power transition 48 people were killed and hundreds injured in the Black Sea port.

Street battles culminated in a fatal fire at a Soviet-era building where hundreds of pro-Russia activists were barricaded in.

The anniversary was marked on Monday (2 May) with a church service and wreath laying ceremony at the spot outside the city’s Trade Union Building where most of the dead perished in a fatal fire.

The deaths two years ago in Odessa were one of the most controversial chapters of the period that began with the Maidan protests in Kyiv in 2014.

On 2 May 2014, as pro-Russian protests were growing in many cities in south and east Ukraine, street clashes between pro-Russians and Ukrainian nationalists ended with the pro-Russians blocked into the five-story Trade Unions building, which was then set on fire. Dozens burned to death inside.

An investigation which is going on today was launched to identify the causes of the fire and also to examine police failure to contain the violence earlier in the day. Witnesses claimed the police stood by doing nothing.

On Monday, more than 2,000 people gathered at the spot to remember the 48 people who died in some of the worse violence that followed the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich.

A bomb alert and the discovery of three grenades left in a bag threatened to overshadow the commemorations.

In another incident, Yuriy Boyko, leader of the Opposition Bloc, the third biggest political group in the Ukraine parliament, was prevented from attending the commemorations after a mob, described by police as “radicals”, blockaded the city’s airport for several hours.

Boyko, leads a 45-strong group of MPs, was unable to leave the airport terminal and eventually returned to Kiev.

Earlier on Monday, an estimated 1,000 “Far-Right” activists marched through Odessa.

The various incidents reflect the tensions that still remain in the city.

Mrs Radzikhovska, who was among those who laid red roses to remember the dead, also met Denis Ducarme, a leading Belgian politician who was in the city as an observer.

After the meeting, she said: “The current situation in Donbass will be very difficult to solve  but for this to happen the central government must deliver the federalism it promised along with new elections. There must also be a genuine prohibition on fascist parties and para-military organisations in the whole country.”

She added, “I am, first and foremost a Ukrainian citizen but we must have a full and thorough investigation into the Odessa tragedy that claimed the life of my son and so many other people. Surely, that will be possible in our own country? If not, then an international organisation must conduct an inquiry to find out what happened that day.”

“This is a day of sorrow, a day of remembrance for those who died two years ago, killed in a vicious and treacherous way,” said Alena Yavorskiy, whose 38-year-old brother Nikolay was also among those killed on 2 May 2014.

She told EUReporter, “My brother was a fireman who served his community with pride. The people responsible for his death were not, as they like to be portrayed, ‘heroes of Ukraine’. Our father, who fought for Ukraine against Nazism in WW2, was a true hero of Ukraine.”

Two middle aged women, who did not wish to be named but said that they had lost two friends, aged 18 and 30, in the fire, also spoke of their hope that a peaceful resolution can be found to the still unfolding conflict in Ukraine between forces loyal to the Ukrainian authorities and Russian-backed separatists.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine led to three reported deaths on Sunday despite an armistice for Orthodox Easter.

Clashes in the Ukrainian industrial heartland has been raging for two years, claiming more than 9,300 lives.

The two female mourners said, “Our friends were part of a what they hoped would be a peaceful demonstration that day. They were there for their ideological beliefs. But they were not carrying any weapons and died after being trapped in the trade union building.”

Despite fears of widespread bloodshed and fresh violence, the commemorations this week passed off relatively peacefully, albeit in a highly charged atmosphere with hundreds of police and troops drafted into Odessa to keep the peace.

Mykola Skoryk, a Ukrainian member of the Verkhovna Rada and Opposition Bloc MP for Odessa, is among those who hopes this weeks’ commemorations will give fresh impetus to the campaign for a new investigation into the deaths.

None of the activists detained after the fire have been put on trial for the events that led to the deaths and Skoryk is among those who have condemned the slow progress and incompetence of the official investigations.

He said, “We need a full investigation that gets to the bottom of what happened.”

Further comment came from Oleg Volyshyn,international secretary for the Opposition Bloc, who told this website that the only realistic prospect of a possible resolution to the conflict would be the eradication of corruption in Ukraine, economic recovery and restoration of full independence.

He said: “These are the things everyone agrees upon. Ninety five percent of Ukrainians have no problem with each other but we need a common agenda, or common ground, before we can move forward.”

Jan Tombinski, the EU ambassador to Ukraine, said: “I urge the government of Ukraine to follow up on the recommendations of the Council of Europe International Advisory Panel and to carry out an independent and transparent investigation. All those responsible for the crimes must be brought to justice.”

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