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The Black-Sea Ulster: the ‘electricity Maidan’ in Odessa

In the night of Sunday, January 4, troops entered Odessa. Units of the Ukrainian National Guard entered the city early in the morning accompanied by a dozen of armored vehicles scaring drowsy inhabitants. This significant development actually marked a new stage in the civil war in Ukraine. It was the first time when the Kiev authorities brought armed forces in a big, almost million-populated city located in hundreds of kilometers away from the formal borders of the so-called ‘counterterror operation zone.’ Noteworthy, the troops instead of going to the quarters started patrolling Odessa’s streets fully in the battle suit with submachine guns. They took up positions at road police checkpoints and took part in checks of cars passing by. It is a classic picture of an occupation of a hostile city. No wonder, Odessa’s citizens started ironically posting old archived photos of Romanian occupation troops entering Odessa.

The Ukrainian government has called the operation ‘preventive anti-terror activities.’ As they said at the Interior Ministry, armed troops and armored vehicles are supposed to alleviate the treat of terror acts in the city. Truly, several explosions took place in this Black-Sea city causing damage to headquarters of nationalistic pro-government organizations. It should be noted, the most recent one took place in the night of January 5, which was after the government troops started patrolling the city streets. However, many representatives of the local opposition immediately called the actions a provocation. For instance, Vyacheslav Azarov, activist of the Union of the Ukrainian Anarchists, even before the troops were deployed in Odessa, saw the series of the explosions as a scenario preferable for the Kiev authorities. He supposed the scenario was needed ‘for introducing a martial law without prior arrangement after adopting the socially terroristic state budget.’

Actually, National Guard troops at Odessa crossroads are least suitable for fighting virtual terrorists from the underground. It is quite evident that their demonstrative presence in the city is more an attempt to avert another, social fallout, and this is how the Kiev regime is getting ready to it. Through all New Year holidays Odessa has been seeing spontaneous protest actions which as a rule ended in blocking the roads. Electricity outages have become a momentum for them. It was a worthy present in the end of 2014 - a year that turned to be so scary for Odessa residents.

On December 31, residents of Vuzovsky District started protesting. They had been staying in their homes without electricity for three days already. The administration announced they could provide electric power starting from January 3 only. Ignoring law enforcement officers, active protesters blocked two streets and finally, after 11:45 p.m. before the New Year Eve, some of the blocks of flats had their lights on.

Thousands of other city dwellers welcomed the New Year without electricity in their flats. Some of the people had been left without power for five an even more days. On January 1, residents blocked several main roads. People living in Glushko Ave. led by a Communist Party activist Maurice Ibrahim, went to the office of the local grid operator and only this way they managed to have electricity in their homes.

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‘We’ve become witness to an amusing trend: at the time when city dwellers are ready to take to the streets, the light is switched on. They in the city say of new tactics of rotating outages under the pretense of an accident,’ reports Odessa-based Timer news resource,

Meanwhile, protesting residents did not wait to show openly their discontent with rising bread prices, new communal fees and taxes. It was evident that power outages were only a push for the general indignation at the truly plunderous policy of the Kiev regime.

‘Factories stop working, prices are hiking, small businesses go bankrupt. I am, well, actually, I was working at a grocery store until yesterday, because products went bad, and our boss said with the new taxes the shop will soon be closed. I do not know what I shall do next,’ says a resident who took part in the New-Year ‘electricity Maidan.’

It was the mas discontent that made Kiev scared. Kiev know exactly what millions of duped Ukrainian citizens only start comprehending: it will be even worse. By the beginning of the spring, when hryvnia continues falling down, wage arrears become more and more frequent, dozens of thousands people can take to the streets in cities like Odessa. This is why the government is flexing its muscles, trying to frighten people by its troops in the streets. The Interior Ministry is clear: the actions have preventive nature, i.e., Kiev is trying to prevent from massive social protests. Flaming in the streets of the city that is hostile to the central government (many people do still remember the May 2 victims), such protests could end in unpredictable outcomes. Chief of the regional department of the Interior Ministry Ivan Katerinchuk unambiguously acknowledged it, calling to ‘refrain from carrying out various mass events – protest actions, picketing, public rallies.’ In other words, those who have sent the armed troops to Odessa, want its residents to stay quiet in their flats in darkness refraining from protests.

Patrols in Odessa streets remind of Ulster, where local communities of the Irish were fighting for civil rights and independence from the British monarchy that deployed armored vehicles in the streets of Derry and Belfast. Meanwhile, social pressure has been growing throughout the whole country. For instance, Irina Vereshchuk, mayor of Rawa Ruska, a town near the Polish border, says this almost European town is facing a real crisis situation:

‘We’ve heard that Arseny Yatsenyuk bought winter tires for his car for 42,000 hryvnia each. It is a whole day for our town living! We have wage arrears worth 18,000 hryvnia that we cannot repay. Our subsidies have been cut. … 22 mn Ukrainians live in small towns. All this can end in social and food riots as early as this spring. Mass riots can start in March!’

Before the war, there were about 400 towns in Ukraine, and occupying them with the help of the National Guard forces, the army and oligarchs’ battalions will not help Kiev avert the coming surge of protests. It is impossible to intimidate everyone. A day will come for the Kiev government to be frightened.

 Andrey Manchuk, specially for EAD

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