The day Russia lost Odesa and launched a lethal propaganda lie used to kill in Donbas
Those who find only humour in the mention by US President Donald Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway of a ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ that never was should think again. It is dangerously easy to then convince people it did happen, and there is nothing funny about stories of an invented ‘massacre’ used to send young men to die or to kill others. That is precisely what Russia launched exactly four years ago, within hours of disturbances and a tragic fire in Odesa, Ukraine that killed 48 people.
This is no innocent misunderstanding. It was inevitable in the general confusion during and immediately after the disturbances and fire on 2 May 2014, that facts would get distorted and opponents would blame each other.
The facts were, however, established, among others, by the 2 May Group, a respected bipartisan initiative formed by journalists, scientists and civic activists who carried out a scrupulous investigation. The Group’s findings (and account in an excellent film, available in Russian, English and in German) were later backed by international experts from the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel.
All of this is invariably ignored by Russian state media which takes quotes from the international report where the Ukrainian authorities are (deservedly) criticized for their inadequate investigation while ignoring the key findings which refute any claims of a ‘massacre’.
The myth that ‘fascist’ or ‘neo-Nazi Ukrainian radicals’ caused the disturbances, and then drove people into the Trade Union House on Kulikovo Pole and deliberately set it alight finds its followers in the West. These are often members of the communist or far-right parties which Russia is cultivating, but there are others who seem willing to assume that the lack of publicity for the supposed ‘massacre’ is due to NATO and Western support for Ukraine and a ‘cover-up’.
It is just possible that French filmmaker Paul Moreira was convinced of such a ‘cover-up’ when he made his film ‘Masks of the Revolution’ in early 2017. In it, he presents a view of Euromaidan and the events in Odesa on 2 May 2014 that corresponds almost exactly to that pushed by the Kremlin, while giving a version of events in Crimea that effectively avoids any mention of Russia’s invasion at all.
It’s even harder to believe that Anna Stefan, an Israeli citizen, genuinely believed in the version she presents in two parts of a supposed documentary entitled ‘Square of Shattered Hopes’ produced for the Israeli channel ILand. The first part was broadcast in February 2018 and covered events on Euromaidan, the second in late April regarding 2 May 2014 in Odesa, with the main ‘sensation’ provided by certain Georgians claiming to have taken part as mercenaries. Both ‘documentaries’ are given generous, and entirely uncritical, coverage in the Vesti news program on Rossiya 24.
Russian blogger Igor Yakovenko has pointed out that the channel ILand has been experiencing financial difficulties for some time which makes it, at very least, suspicious that money should have suddenly become available for an investigation in another country.
It is not only this that puts Stefan’s motives in question. She told a Vesti correspondent that she had been contacted by these supposed Georgian mercenaries who wanted to tell their story in order to protect themselves, since so many of those who had taken part in the events were being bumped off. People were too frightened to speak, she asserts and claims that she could because she has an Israeli passport. There is no proof that anybody has been killed, nor that people have been too frightened to speak with independent monitors and investigators.
This Georgian, who is supposed to have been a mercenary on Maidan as well, claims that they were under the direct command of Andriy Parubiy, now Speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament). They were supposed “to destroy everything, set fire and leave”. He was allegedly to be paid by former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was to get the money from “Porokh” (Petro Poroshenko). The latter only become President several weeks after the events in question, but that is only one of multiple bleeps in the story that Stefan seems quite unperturbed by.
Stefan tells the Russian state propaganda channel that she is waiting for an official response from Ukraine and even wants one. She claims to have the impression that “everything is understood, but nothing changes”.
Everything about her film is easily understood. Like Russian television, she prefers to put forward almost unquestioningly this Georgian’s story even though it directly conflicts with the findings of the 2 May Group and the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel. And, just like Russian TV, she carefully edits the images she shows, with the video footage which should show the desperate efforts by Maidan activists to save people trapped in the building cut so that you only see the people in the windows of the burning building.
Judging by previous years, there will be more such features on Russian television, including on RT which freely receives a licence to broadcast open and incendiary lies in most western countries.
All such material deftly avoids mentioning the attack by pro-Russian activists on peaceful marchers, and seriously distorts the facts about the fire. The scenes carefully chopped out include those which show that the pro-Ukrainian activists below were being shot at from the roof and windows of the building, as well as having Molotov cocktails hurled at them. All investigators have confirmed also that there were Molotov cocktails being hurled into the building foyer, and from it at the pro-Ukrainian activists, and that it cannot be known which incendiary device caused the fire. There is literally no evidence that anybody was killed while trying to escape as is regularly claimed.
The real smoking gun
There is considerable evidence that Russia was providing support and funding for the Odesa Druzhyna, an anti-Maidan, pro-federalist movement and other pro-Russian activists in Odesa before the disturbances on 2 May 2014.
A film produced by TV Dumskaya in September 2016 exposed direct links between Moscow and the disturbances form late February 2014 in Odesa The film ‘2 May. Moscow Trail’ provided additional proof of the authenticity of recordings in which Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, can be heard discussing how disturbances in Odesa and other cities are to be orchestrated, as well as the formation of a ‘government’ in Crimea in which Russian soldiers had just seized control.
The film producers demonstrate how the same people involved in an earlier attempt to seize control and declare an ‘Odesa people’s republic’ and heard discussing this on the Glazyev tapes, also initiated the mass disturbances in Odesa on May 2, 2014, and the seizure of the Trade Union building (more details here).
Putin had articulated his position on the oblasts of Ukraine, including the Odesa oblast, that he considered part of a so-called ‘Novorossiya’ back in the middle of April 2014. With that coming a month after the Kremlin completed Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and then embarked on military aggression in Donbas, it was very widely feared that Odesa would soon fall also.
Many in Odesa believe that it was the devastating tragedy that day which prevented such a scenario in their city.
Six men died during the disturbances and 42 pro-Russian activists as a result of the fire. There is probably no way of knowing the real number of victims since this should also include those who died or were killed by young men conned by cynical lies about a fictitious ‘massacre’ to go off to fight “against fascists” in Donbas.
Details about Ukraine’s largely failed investigation into the events on 1 May 2014 can be found here (and in texts on the right) Ukraine faces human rights court hammering over investigation of Odesa 2 May Tragedy