Three years ago 42 people were killed at Kulykove Pole in Odesa, Ukraine on May 2. This occurred after a fire broke out in the midst of large-scale clashes between "Anti-Maidan" supporters, Ultras football fans and "Euromaidan" supporters. Another six were killed in street fighting on Hretska Street.
Those guilty in the tragedy have not been punished. Some participants have fled to Russia or the occupied Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, but most remain in Ukrainian territory. There are currently six criminal proceedings for the May 2 case.
This year, on the eve of the May 9 Victory Day commemorations, Hromadske journalist Dmytro Replianchuk returned to Odesa to report on how things have changed.
The situation in Odesa remains tense. The city has quite active support for pro-Russian forces, but conflicts between them and nationalist are not as extensive as they once were. They arise mainly on symbolic dates or anniversaries. "The situation is much 'softer' than it was in the years 2014-2015," said Dmytro Holovyn, head of the Odesa Regional Police. "But the conflict has not stabilized, it continues."
According to Holovyn, resistance and opposition can be divided into two categories: open resistance as was seen in the events of May 2 and May 9 and the "disguised work" of saboteurs and reconnaissance groups. "The SBU is very active here and we are doing everything in our power to help them," said Holovyn. "Those who are screaming and spitting at the police are wrong."
Similarly, the coordinator of the "May 2" group of experts, Tetyana Herasymova, claimed that investigations such as these can take a long time. "These things are not investigated quickly and such cases take months to be heard in court," Herasymova explained. "We have to understand that investigations and trials take many years. Maybe even 10 years."
Several thousand people came to Kulykove Pole to honour the memory of the dead on the third anniversary of the May 2 tragedy. Some used the event as a platform for political speeches.
On Victory Day, May 9, flowers were laid at the site of the eternal flame and participants gathered for the march of the "Eternal Regiment". They were, however, banned from wearing St. George Ribbbons and other Soviet symbols. Police broke up confrontations between the marchers and right sector groups.
Odesa nationalists and right sector groups responded with their own Victory Day parade with Soviet flags and St. George Ribbons in the nearby village of Kuchurgan, on the border with Transnistria.
Nevertheless, editor-in-chief of local "Dumskaya" media, Oleh Konstantynov, maintained that Odesa will remain part of Ukraine. “Objectively speaking the majority of people in Odesa don’t care who is in power, let’s be honest," Konstantynov said. "As long as there is a Ukrainian state with its security forces in power, its army, and thousands of people who have gone through the war in the East in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Odesa will remain Ukrainian. It will celebrate Ukrainian holidays. It might 'muddy the waters' on May 9 with the march of the 'Eternal Regiment', but that’s all.”
/Reporting by Dmytro Replianchuk
/Translated by Eilish Hart