US Activists Hope Exposing Odessa Massacre Helps World Grasp True Nature of Ukraine Govt.
© Sputnik / Alex Maknoton/
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US activists hope to help the international community understand the real nature of the Ukrainian government by speaking out about what happened in Odessa in May of 2014, US human rights activist and coordinator of the Odessa Solidarity Campaign Phil Wilayto told Sputnik.
“On a personal level, the privilege of attending the second annual memorial in Odessa was a deeply moving experience for me and an opportunity to witness the tremendous courage of the people of Odessa who were determined to hold their memorial despite the fact that the fascist organizations were threatening to kill them,” Wilayto said. “And on a political level, continuing to expose what happened on 2 May 2014, is, we hope, a contribution to helping the world understand the true nature of the Ukrainian government and the events and processes that have led to the present crisis.”
The 2014 Odessa Massacre, Wilayto added, has been called the worst civil disturbance in Europe since World War II.
“After the February coup, local organizers in Odessa began circulating a petition calling for the popular election of provincial governors, instead of having them continue to be appointed by what had now become a right-wing government," he said.
The murderous attack led by openly fascist organizations was not only a great local tragedy, Wilayto added, but proof the new government in Kiev was willing to continue to work with the neo-Nazi paramilitary organizations that had helped bring it to power.
“Among the most notorious of these is the Azov Battalion, which has been integrated directly into the Ukrainian military," Wilayto said.
Wilayto went on to underscore that today in Ukraine it is impossible to openly speak out against the government.
“Since the beginning of hostilities on 24 Feb., President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy has outlawed 11 opposition political parties, accusing them of being 'pro-Russian,' even though many of them had opposed the Russian invasion,” he explained. “That same weekend, the president nationalized television news, combining all national TV channels into one government-run platform to create a 'unified information policy.'"
Meanwhile, Wilayto continued to say, many individuals have come under attack.
“From Yuri Tkachev, editor-in-chief of Timer, a non-political online publication in Odessa, who happens to be an ethnic Russian, to Mikhail and Aleksandr Kononovich, brothers and youth leaders of the Communist Party of Ukraine, who were jailed in March,” he said. “But none of this is being reported here in the West.”
Wilayto stressed that a lot of the truth about the Odessa Massacre is already known including through the many online videos and images of the House of Trade Unions in flames, showing people jumping from the third and fourth floors to save themselves from burning to death. It also shows people being beaten as they hit the ground and the faces of the murderers in addition to the inaction of the police.
Despite all of this public knowledge, the activist stressed, it is still not known who was ultimately responsible for the massacre.
“We know it served the interests of the central government, which was worried about a separatist movement developing in Odessa, but we don’t know if the massacre was orchestrated from above or if its perpetrators were merely protected after the massacre,” he said. “But the fact that Kiev has never allowed an independent international investigation of the massacre speaks volumes.”
Meanwhile, Washington has not demanded that the murderers be brought to justice, Wilayto added, because the massacre also served US interests by helping to consolidate the power of the new pro-US and pro-NATO government.
“Besides, the United States has yet to fully investigate its own massacres of indigenous peoples, African-Americans and other people of colour here at home," he said.
A number of US activist groups will commemorate the 2014 massacre in the city of Odessa by organizing public events in the United States, Canada and Europe, Phil Wilayto said.
"This year we have been working with two other organizations - the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine, which is made up of people who have been forced to leave Ukraine due to political repression there or who have been imprisoned by the Ukrainian government; and the Coop Anti-War Cafe, a gathering place for local and international peace activists in Berlin, Germany," Wilayto said. "Together we issued an appeal for international solidarity with the people of Odessa, encouraging local actions on May 2 with the slogans 'NO to Fascism! NO to NATO! YES to a Multipolar World based on Cooperation, not Confrontation!'"
Wilayto noted that the organizers are still compiling a list of cities that will hold events, adding, "We know they will take place in Europe, Canada and the United States, at least."
The organizers are also creating a webinar with representatives from the three organizations and that will be ready to post content online on 2 May, Wilayto said.
"The webinar goes over the processes and events that have led up to the present crisis in Ukraine: the steady, eastward expansion of NATO and the US support for the right-wing coup of 2014 that led to the Odessa Massacre, as well as to the developments in Crimea and the Donbas," he said.
Wilayto pointed out that each year, the Odessa Solidarity Campaign - a project of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality - encourages local action around the world to commemorate the tragic events of 2 May 2014, when at least 42 people were murdered by a fascist-led mob at the House of Trade Unions in Odessa, Ukraine.
Wilayto said the activists have been doing this since they travelled to Odessa on 2 May 2016, in the role of international observers to attend the second annual memorial of the massacre.
"In years past, there have been as many as 20 local events across Europe and North America to honour the victims and to support the ongoing demand of the people of Odessa for an international investigation into the mass murders, something the Ukrainian government has never allowed," he said.
On 2 May 2014, Ukrainian nationalists locked pro-federalism protesters in Odessa's Trade Unions House and set the building on fire. Almost 50 people died and some 250 protesters were injured in clashes with the radicals, according to the United Nations.
The clashes in Odessa became one of the deadliest events during the Maidan and anti-Maidan demonstrations in Ukraine that started in late 2013. Moscow has repeatedly criticized Kiev's steps in the investigation of the deadly tragedy and urged the international community and human rights groups to probe the causes of the massacre.