: Odesa massacre: years of investigation bring no progress

15:38 May. 1, 2016

Odesa massacre: years of investigation bring no progress

Flowers and candles are left outside the burnt Trade Union building in memory of people killed in clashes in the Ukrainian city of Odesa, on May 5, 2014. (Getty Images)

Ukraine commemorates victims of 2014 bloodshed as police fails to find the guilty 

May 2 marks the second anniversary of the tragic events that took place in the city of Odesa in 2014. The infamous clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters took lives of 48 people and left more than 200 wounded.

Several days later the law enforcers announced the main suspects were detained. However, after two years of investigation police failed to establish all persons responsible for the bloodshed.

City divided by burning hatred

The day in Odesa began with a March of Ukraine's unity. It was organized by football fans and local citizens who supported the Maidan Revolution. While walking down the streets of the city, the activists came across the column of the 'Antimaidan' protesters.

The tensions between the groups quickly escalated and soon the shots were fired. Police failed to stop the fighting which resulted in six pro-Ukrainian activists being killed, three of them reportedly by the gunfire.

These murders culminated in a large confrontation at the Odesa Trade Unions building, where the pro-Russian activists were overwhelmed by the Maidan supporters. The building the 'Antimaidan' members holed up in was torched in unclear circumstances, and 42 people died, some were burned alive, some jumped from the windows to their deaths.


Evacuation of people from the burning Trade Unions Building on May 2, 2014 in Odesa, Ukraine. (Getty Images)

These events were named the bloodiest and most tragic in Odesa in the past 100 years. The city announced a three-day mourning in honour of those who lost their lives.

Watch also a documentary recounting last year's tragedy: 'Odesa. May 2: What Really Happened' (the film presents results of the journalistic investigation):

The aftermath

Many say the conflict in Odesa demonstrated the inability of local police to uphold order in the city. In fact, Ukrainians went as far as accusing the law enforcers of deliberately staying idle during the skirmishes.

"The actions of Odesa law enforcers were disgusting, possibly even criminal," Arsen Avakov, the Ukraine's Minister of Internal affairs, posted on Twitter on the day of the unrests. He slammed the police for their inactivity and incompetency. 

The investigators announced that among the detained suspects were several police officers. The head of Odessa police at the time Petro Lutsyuk was arrested and sued. Deputy chief Dmytro Fuchedzhi was declared wanted, but managed to flee from Ukraine and reportedly took refuge in the Russia-occupied part of Moldova Transnistria.


Police troops guard the burnt trade union building in Odesa, Ukraine, May 3, 2014. (AP Photo)

The investigation

The bloodshed was organised intentionally. This was the conclusion the investigators reached during the inquiry. In June 2015, prosecutors announced 22 persons were arrested in connections to the unrests.

"19 'Antimaidan' and three Maidan activists are under arrests. Another 13 are hiding from the investigation," announced Prosecutor General's Office rep Volodymyr Huzyr in an interview with Ukrainian journalists.

According to the report published on the website of the institution, the conflagration in the Trade Unions building was a result of the skirmishes. "Both sides used the flame liquids against each other, inside the building too. This is what caused the fire," the report read.

However, two years later the investigation is still ongoing. It is conducted by both the police and the Prosecutor General's office. They are still collecting evidences and analyzing data.

Reaction in the world

This inquiry has been repeatedly criticized by international human rights groups and organisations. In November 2015, the Council of Europe reported Kyiv didn't reach any progress in establishing all parties responsible for the bloodshed. The experts said prosecutors failed to conduct inspections at the appropriate time and keep all the evidences intact.

"The Panel finds that, in respect of each of the matters under investigation, the relevant authorities failed to show sufficient thoroughness and diligence in initiating and/or pursuing the investigations, with the result that their overall effectiveness was compromised," the report stated.

Read also International Advisory Panel presents results of May 2014 Odesa tragedy investigation

In March 2016 Fiona Frazer, the Head of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, also stated there still was no development in the investigation. "This raises questions about the ability of the institution to find the persons responsible for the crimes," Frazer claimed in an interview with Ukrainian journalists in Kyiv.

International observers say the absence of the result might bring more tensions in the society.

Second anniversary

As Ukrainians prepare to commemorate the victims of the events, Odesa court prohibits any mass demonstrations in the city. 3,000 servicemen of the country's National Guard have been deployed in the city ahead of the anniversary. The law enforcers say they will detain all persons wearing balaclavas. Additionally, metal detectors will be installed.

Read also One year on from deadly Odesa clashes that killed 48, Ukraine's port city remains on a knife-edge

Ukrainian officials are taking these measures to prevent any relapse of the violence between local citizens. Experts and activists, in turn, claim, finding persons responsible for the murders could calm the tensions in the city way better than any armed guardsman.

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