NICOLAI PETRO, nnpetro at gmail.com
Petro is an academic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian affairs. He is currently a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He spent 2013-2014 as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine. He just wrote the piece “Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa,” which states:
“May 2 will mark the second anniversary of one of the most horrific, politically inspired tragedies in modern European history — the fire in the Odessa trade union building that killed 48 people and wounded another 200.
“Numerous pleas by the United Nations and the European Union for a thorough investigation into the causes of this tragedy have gone unanswered. … Last November, the International Consulting Group, set up by the Council of Europe, issued a scathing report about this lack of progress, and the government’s apparent disinterest in bringing those responsible to trial.
“Now, as we approach the second anniversary of these tragic deaths, and the commemoration of Soviet victory in the Second World War on May 9, some of the same groups involved in the first tragedy are quite openly preparing for a second round. To this end, the leading nationalist spokesman, Dmitro Yarosh, the former leader of the Right Sector, was invited to Odessa this month.
“There he explained his credo to his followers: ‘I am just not a democrat. My worldview is that of a Ukrainian nationalist. I believe that popular national government is very good, but only when democracy does not threaten the very existence of the state. We sometimes play at democracy with the likes of Kivalov [a member of parliament from Odessa], with [Odessa’s mayor] Trukhanov … but in war time this is never good’ he said, adding ‘the enemy needs to be dealt with as he is always dealt with in wartime — neutralized.’
“A significant Western media presence on the ground during the critical week from May 2 to 9, could conceivably lead the radical nationalists to reconsider their violent strategy. Turning a blind eye to the gathering storm, by contrast, will only embolden the most radical elements in society, and further erode respect for law and order in Ukraine.”
JOE LOMBARDO, UNACpeace at gmail.com, @UNAC1
Lombardo is co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition, which is sending a delegation of human rights activists to Odessa to monitor the memorial planned by the Mothers’ Committee for May 2 to honor their family members who died in the House of Trade Unions fire. The delegation will join other international monitors from France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria.
The UNAC presence is part of a solidarity campaign backed by “more than 150 human rights organizations and activists from 20 countries in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.”
The most recent UNAC statement on Odessa notes: “At the U.S. State Department’s daily press briefing on April 26, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was asked the U.S. position on the memorial planned for May 2 in Odessa’s Kolikovo square to mark the second anniversary of the day scores of progressives died there at the hands of a reactionary mob.
“In response, Toner said the State Department had strongly condemned the massacre of May 2, 2014, supported holding an investigation to bring those responsible ‘to justice’ and condemned threats being leveled against those attending the memorial.
“‘The most important thing to stress here is that we would obviously support any commemoration of this event … and we would certainly condemn any threats in the run-up to these events,’ Toner said.” See video.