Report on the International Day of Solidarity with the People of Odessa
On April 10, 2017, more than two dozen organizations in 19 cities in 12 countries across Europe and North America together called on the government of Ukraine to immediately release all political prisoners and end the current wave of repression against relatives of the victims of the fascist-led massacre at Odessa’s House of Trade Unions on May 2, 2014. April 10 is a date of great significance to all Odessans, as it marks the day in 1944 when Odessa was liberated from years of fascist occupation. The Odessa Solidarity Campaign thanks everyone who participated in this effort and we look forward to working more closely with you in the future. The full report, updated April 17, 2017, is HERE.
BACKGROUND TO THE CURRENT CRISIS
February 2014 saw the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine in a violent, right-wing coup supported by the U.S. government. Just three months later, on May 2, Odessa experienced one of Europe’s worst civil disorders in many decades, when 46 mostly young progressives were brutally murdered by a fascist-led mob at Odessa’s Kulikovo square.
Ever since that day, relatives, friends and supporters of those who were killed have been demanding an international investigation into the massacre, a demand that has been blocked by the federal government working hand-in-hand with the fascist organizations responsible for the deaths. This obstruction by the Ukrainian government has been noted by the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other international bodies, as well as the U.S. State Department.
Despite many videos taken of the fascists participating in the massacre, not one of those responsible for the murders has ever been brought to trial, while many anti-fascists arrested that day are still in prison, many never having been charged with a crime.
Each week since the massacre, Odessans have gathered in Kulikovo square to remember their dead and press the demand for an investigation. And nearly every week, neo-Nazi organizations like the notorious Right Sector harass and sometimes physically attack them. The police occasionally intervene, but the fascists are never arrested.
In an alarming new development, several anti-fascist Odessans have been arrested by federal authorities and falsely charged with serious crimes. On Feb. 23, Alexander Kushnarev, 65, a deputy of the Limansk District Council and father of one of the young people murdered at Kulikovo square, was arrested by agents of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). Also arrested was Anatoly Slobodyanik, 68, a retired military officer and the head of the Odessa Organization of Veterans of Armed Forces. The Odessan region’s chief prosecutor claims the two men were planning to kidnap a member of the country’s Rada, or parliament.
The Rada deputy, Alexei Goncharenko, a member of a parliamentary bloc allied with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, was in fact missing for a short time. But he quickly reappeared and was interviewed on the Ukrainian television channel EspresoTV, stating that his abduction had been staged by law enforcement officers. Kushnarev may have been selected for a government frame-up because Goncharenko was at the scene of the 2014 massacre where Kushnarev’s son was killed.
Kushnarev and Slobodyanik are now languishing in the Odessa prison where conditions are aimed at breaking the prisoners’ will to resist. Both elderly men have had long-standing heart problems and it is feared they may not survive their confinement.
Since the two men were taken into custody, the homes of other relatives of the victims of May 2 have been searched by police. Ominous reports are now surfacing about plans to arrest more relatives and supporters and extract “confessions” of plans to commit violent acts against the government.
Since the coup of 2014, the right of the Ukrainian people to free speech has been steadily restricted. The continuing demand of Odessans for an international investigation into the massacre at Kulikovo square has been a particular irritant to the federal government. If the voices of these brave people are allowed to be silenced, Ukraine will have taken another huge step toward becoming an undemocratic police state in collusion with murderous fascist groups.
Solidarity with the People of Odessa! Free Alexander Kushnarev, Anatoly Slobodyanik & all political prisoners in Ukraine! Stop the repression against relatives & supporters of those killed on May 2, 2014! No to fascism in Ukraine & all over the world!
The Odessa Solidarity Campaign is a project of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). It was founded in May 2016 following the second anniversary memorial of the massacre of May 2, 2014. A delegation of UNAC members from the United States attended the memorial, which was held at Odessa’s Kulikovo square.