In Odessa Massacre May 2, 2014, Solidarity with Ukrainian people, Ukraine

By Anton Tatarsky, New Cold, May 8, 2015

Rallies and marches in solidarity with the pro-democracy, anti-fascist resistance of the people of Odessa, Ukraine were held in countries around the world on May 2, 2015, including in Ukraine, Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Australia, the United States, Canada and more. Below is a report on the rally that took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, one of six Canadian cities where rallies took place.

Remember Odessa! rally in Winnipeg, May 2, 2015 (RW Photography)

Remember Odessa! rally in Winnipeg, May 2, 2015 (RW Photography)

WINNIPEG–It was a sunny day here in Winnipeg on May 2, 2015, just like it was one year ago, many thousands of kilometers away in Odessa, Ukraine. On that date, a crazed mob of militants and football hooligans, Ukrainian nationalists armed with firebombs, guns and melee weapons, chased a small group of protestors and bystanders into the Trade Unions House in the center of the city of Odessa. The building was set on fire by Molotov cocktails tossed by the ultra-nationalist thugs, whom the current Ukrainian government prefers to call “patriots”.

Shooting at the windows of the building, shouting extreme nationalist slogans and calling for the murder of people inside, the mob then went on a murderous rampage both inside and outside of the building. While thugs who had followed protestors into the building were busy killing people amidst smoke and fire, trapped protesters who jumped out of the five-story building were clubbed on the ground right in front of live TV cameras, to the amusement of a cheering mob. Those who survived the inferno and the savage beatings were then dragged through a phalanx of thugs landing more blows with their fists, boots and clubs.

Emergency services records show that no fire engines were dispatched for more than one hour after fire had engulfed the building, despite scores of calls from bystanders and people watching in horror on live TV. The nearest fire depot is located only a few hundred meters away from the trade union building.

To add insult to injury, the investigation of the massacre has been shoddy or non-existent. Not a single perpetrator of the massacre has been criminally charged, even though their actions are widely documented on film for all the world to see. Meanwhile, many of the survivors were thrown into jail by the local police and Ukrainian Security Services after authorities finally decided to intervene some hours later, having idly observed the massacre from the sidelines. Many of those, and many people detained in the days and weeks afterward, still languish in prison.

Official Ukrainian figures put the death toll on that sunny day in Odessa at 48. There are numerous reports and investigations indicating that top Ukrainian government officials and some of the most influential Ukrainian oligarchs played a role in organizing and enabling the massacre, including providing weapons to the mob, many of whom had traveled to Odessa from central and western Ukraine spoiling for trouble.

Disappointingly, the horrific events in Odessa were completely ignored by Canadian media and the Canadian government. Both were too busy drumming up support for one of the sides in what soon became a civil war in Ukraine.  Supporting a new “pro-Western, democratic Ukrainian government”, calling for more sanctions against Russia, and regurgitating of Ukrainian government press releases kept mainstream Canadian journalists from covering the horrific event that immediately propelled many people in Eastern Ukraine to begin to organize the defense of their homes and communities against the horror they had witnessed that day on live TV. Even today, one is hard pressed to find any coverage of the Odessa Massacre in Canadian mainstream media.

It was that deafening silence and the horror over the events in Ukraine that brought Winnipeggers out on a sunny day in May last weekend. A small group of trade union and peace activists, mostly of Ukrainian heritage, gathered in front of recently opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We were there to mourn for the victims of the Odessa Massacre, to salute their sacrifices, and to support their friends and relatives, many of whom are still locked up in Ukrainian prisons under trumped-up charges of having contributed to the violence that day or because their political views for the future of Ukraine can now land a person in jail.

This action was organized by Peace Alliance Winnipeg and others, and was planned as a somber event. Holding our signs and handing out printed information, we attempted to break the silence and to bring to the attention of the Canadian public the horrific events in Ukraine. Our efforts, once again, went unnoticed by the Canadian press, with the noticeable exception of Michael Welch from local radio station CKUW. But we are confident that with time, our messages will filter through because the truth cannot be bottled up forever.

Our peaceful action attracted the attention of some Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. They are active here in Winnipeg. They attempted to disrupt the peaceful event and silence our voices, thereby stopping the Canadian public from learning the truth about the Odessa Massacre. Fortunately, we live in a country where right of free speech is protected and the nationalists were forced to watch from the sidelines thanks to the prompt intervention by security staff and Winnipeg Police.

The May 2 event in Winnipeg was one of six events in Canadian cities to combat the silence of mainstream media and its anti-Russia, pro-war propaganda. There were too few of us gathered on that sunny day, maybe 25 in total. But we were joined by hundreds in five other Canadian cities—Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver—and by thousands of people around the world, including an estimated 5,000 in Kyiv. We demonstrated to the Canadian public and to the Ukrainian nationalists and the warmongers inside Harper’s government who are enabling Kyiv’s war in eastern Ukraine that there are plenty of voices here in Canada not afraid to speak out. We are people who are willing to stand up against thuggery and call for a peaceful resolution of the civil war in Ukraine. Our numbers are growing.

We are calling for an independent, international investigation of the Odessa Massacre of May 2, 2014. We call for those responsible to be brought to justice. We demand the release from prison of those being detained under specious accusations. And we want the Conservative government to stop its support for a Ukrainian government that stood back and allowed the massacre to happen, perhaps even enabled it.

Anton Tatarsky is a university student, Russian-English translator and antiwar activist in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information on the Odessa Massacre of May 2, 2014, and for more news of the commemoration events around the world on May 2, 2015, go to the dedicated page on the subject on The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond.


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