Kiev Supporters Burn Opponents Alive in Odessa,
Police Do Nothing
By William Boardman
The acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov told regional governors on May 1 that the Kiev interim government was "helpless" to re-establish central government control in eastern Ukraine, where anti-Kiev forces (pro-independence and/or pro-Russian) have taken control of numerous cities in a manner imitating the way the Kiev government itself seized power in February.
"I will be frank. Today, security forces are unable to take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions quickly under control," Turchynov said at the May Day meeting. He reported that numerous Ukrainian military and security personnel had defected to the rebels, taking their arms with them. With Kiev's authority in doubt in much of eastern Ukraine, Turchynov said his government's plan was to try to slow pro-Russian gains by concentrating on the defense of Kharkiv in the northeast and Odessa in the southwest.
For months, Odessa (population about one million) had remained relatively peaceful despite turmoil in other parts of the country. Odessa was more disturbed by speculation than active demonstrations. The April 16 declaration of the "Odessa People's Republic" turned out to be a hoax and European monitors reported that the city remained calm. On April 23 in Odessa, people from various sides, including supporters of Euromaidan (pro-Kiev) and supporters of Antimaidan (pro-Russian culturally, but not always pro-separatist), agreed that the greatest threat to Ukraine was from abroad. They reportedly worked together to establish checkpoints around Odessa to defend against pro-Russian provocateurs.
The day after acting president Turchynov spoke of being "helpless," the Kiev government launched its largest military operation to date in eastern Ukraine, an action that is still causing casualties on both sides, as the fighting continues at a low intensity.
On the same day, May 2, Odessa suffered more civilian deaths than any place in Ukraine since some 70 people died in Kiev in February, in the course of the bloody coup that brought the present government to power.
What happened in Odessa on May 2 remains somewhat murky