Odesa Remembers the 2014 Massacre With Metal Detectors and Doves
5 May, 2017

A few thousand people gathered for a meeting at the burned down House of Trade Unions in Odesa’s square-garden Kulykove Pole on May 2nd.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

Three years ago 42 people were killed there during large-scale confrontations between “Anti-Maidan” and “Euromaidan” supporters. Another 6 were also killed on Hretska Street at that time due to street fighting.

This year the majority of people at Kulykove Pole came to honour the memory of the dead. Some shouted political slogans, while others tried to initiate a provocation. Participants released doves and law enforcement searched for explosives.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

Hromadske journalists were there to see who and what came to the House of Trade Unions on May 2nd, where the tragic event took place in 2014.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

We arrive at Kulykove Pole around 8 am. The area around the square is completely blocked by law enforcement, only the trams pass through. It seems that every unit of law enforcement and rescue services in existence are gathered here, including patrol police, special forces from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the national guard, firemen, bomb disposal units and K9 units. We also meet familiar faces from the Kyiv police, who were sent there as reinforcements.

But it’s not just law enforcement that has special forces here: not far from the square stand young people in bulletproof vests holding rubber truncheons. This is a private security company, whose members also represent the local “Automaidan”.

“Of course we know about them. In such a situation, like we saw today, any help is in our favour,” – Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Sergei Yarovyi said later.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

People gradually began to gather by the metal detectors at the entrance to Kulykove Pole. The majority of them carry red roses or lamps.

“An hour ago a woman with an orange and black St. George ribbon was detained here. We quickly explained to her that it is forbidden to wear it, so she took it off and that was that,” – we are told while the police check our personal belongings.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

By the burned down House of Trade Unions lay several dozen bouquets, a man reads a prayer.

A few metres from the fence members of the National Guard and medics stand, bored.

Suddenly, over the loudspeaker the policemen ask everyone to leave the area. They had received a report of an alleged attempt to plant a landmine. One man refused to leave the square – He was caught by a fully armed patrol unit near the House of Trade Unions.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

Around the same time, law enforcement officers are looking for explosives at the Mechnykov National University and at the Odesa Polytechnic University.

By 13:50 everyone was still searching for explosives at Kulykove Pole. At exactly 14:00 people carefully began to head towards the meeting location. By that time there was knowledge of four suspects detained for administrative offenses.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

Special forces personnel from Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs were already lined up under the House of Trade Unions. The number of people is bigger than it was this morning. Mainly pensioners came, but they are joined by young people, and parents with children.

A woman begins the meeting, screaming into the microphone, “Don’t forget, don’t forgive”. Hundreds of people repeat after her. Later they would call out more ambiguous slogans about Ukrainian nationalists and Russia. People in the crowd also hold black balloons with the inscription “Remember Odesa. Stop fascism”.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

“People died here, for the referendum. They knew, that Maidan was violence”, said one protester, Oleksandr. When asked how he sees the war in Donbas and the presence of Russian citizens there, he answers: “My relatives live in the region, and there are no Russian troops there. The people revolted.”

In the crowd an argument breaks out. A man with a European Union ribbon, intertwined with yellow and blue flowers, argues with a woman. In response to him she screams “Provocator”. In a matter of seconds the police appear between them and take the man away from the crowd.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

Later, the protesters take doves out of boxes and release them into the sky. “So we honour the memory of those killed at the House of Trade Unions,” one of the participants explains.

The area around Kulykove Pole slowly fills up with young, athletic people, many in military-style jackets with symbols of the far right group “C14”. They sing the Ukrainian national anthem and chant “Glory to Ukraine”. The answer, “Glory to the Heroes”. In the morning members of “C14” were waiting at the airport for the deputy of the “opposition block” Vadym Novynskiy, but they were unable to meet.

Police flit among the crowd again, asking the meetings’ participants to clear the area of Kulykove Pole. They had once again received a report about the planting of landmines in the square.  The chain of law enforcement is insistent enough; protesters and journalists cautiously withdraw to the perimeter of the field. This time, people do not expect that the bomb disposal unit will complete its inspection and they go home.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

That evening, Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Serhiy Yaroviy reported that about 1.5 thousand people attended the meeting and fourteen of them were detained for administrative violations, mainly hooliganism or disobedience to law enforcement.

It later became known that early that same morning the leader of Odesa’s pro-Russian movement had been searched. The search was conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine with the help of the police. “These were preventative measures, so that no one had the desire to initiate a provocation.” – the head of Odessa's regional police Dmitriy Golovyn explained in a commentary to Hromadske.

However, in his words, May 2 was just the “prelude” to a demonstration of “many thousands” planned for May 9.

/Reporting by Dmytro Replianchuk

/Translated by Eilish Hart