May 2 is the second anniversary of the tragedy that happened in the building of the Trade Unions in Odessa when dozens of unarmed people were burned alive, beaten to death, or tortured. The investigation in those crimes lacks any progress. Meantime, the people who were injured in that tragedy are in custody instead of the murderers and criminals, and the isolation wards in Odessa are full with “unreliable” citizens dangerous for the regime. In an interview with EADaily, Larisa Shesler, Head of the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine speaks about the investigation in those tragic events and the political persecutions in Odessa.
How many opponents of “Euro-Maidan,” the incumbent authorities, are still kept prisoners in Odessa in your opinion?
There are about one hundred political prisoners in Odessa. Five of them were directly involved in the events on Kulikovo Field on May 2. One of the prisoners, for instance, Yevgeny Mefedov, is a citizen of Russia. He occurred there incidentally. He has been under arrest for two years already just for being a citizen of Russia. He may face far-reaching allegations, as he just lived and worked as a taxi driver in Odessa, and did not participate in the protests against Maidan. His arrest has been prolonged a few days ago, though there are no proofs that he participated in the unrest. There is video footage where he simply stands in the square. By all appearances, he was there by the call of a passenger and when the clashes started he just ran into the public like many others did. Then he was beaten up and detained despite his burns and injuries.
What allegations are being prepared against them?
They are incriminating various criminal and political crimes against the detainees: organization of public disorders, “high treason.” Instead of accusing those guilty in the death of the people in the building of Trade Unions, they are keeping in custody the people who were injured in those incidents, as they simply do not want to search the criminals. In addition, the authorities need to keep Odessa in fear. That is why more than 90 people who opposed the consequences of Euro-Maidan were arrested. At least, we know about one hundred people that are imprisoned in Odessa.
I would like to recall that few days ago, Elena Glischinskaya, a local journalist gave birth in an isolation ward, despite the recommendations of the European Court for Human Rights and physicians to take her to a medical establishment. She was arrested for organizing the assembly of the People’s Rada of Bessarabia public organization. Glischinskaya is charged with “high treason.” She is still in prison. Fortunately, the child is healthy. Can you imagine the state of a woman that was in prison throughout her pregnancy?
How many people had to leave Odessa during the last two years for the fear of political persecutions?
Hundreds have left Odessa. Odessa saw 20,000-strong protests, and many of the activists had to flee not to face arrest or not to be murdered. Some people have simply disappeared. No one knows where those people are now. Many left for Donbass and Russia. Most of them are still active, since their friends are in Odessa. Many have engaged in human rights activities, like us, the Union of Emigrants and Political Prisoners. We are defending the rights of prisoners in Ukraine, trying to explain to Europe and to the civil societies in European countries what, in fact, is happening in Odessa, and in Ukraine, generally. We are striving to prove and to show everyone that Ukraine is turning into a Fascist country where all the European rights and freedoms - freedom of speech, the right to peaceful assemblies and others - are suppressed.
Besides the official power-wielding agencies, in Ukraine there are special paramilitary unions that were set up to disperse peaceful assemblies and protests. I am speaking about the so-called voluntary battalions and “civic activists” that set up gangs, wear balaclava masks and Fascist symbols and attack peaceful demonstrations and pickets. All of us could see that gang, Azov group, dispersing the peaceful assembly in Kiev on March 17. We saw how they attacked the assembly that Vasily Volga, the leader of the Union of the Left Forces party, wanted to hold, and beat him up severely. Similar gangs attack peaceful assemblies of the people who try to preserve the Soviet symbols in Zaporizhia, Dnepropetrovsk, and Kharkiv. All these gangs terrorize the population to help the incumbent authorities retain power. However, the authorities are shaky, as there is economic crisis in the country.
What do you think of the investigation into the tragedy at the Trade Unions building in Odessa?
The video footage of the tragedy in Odessa is extensive. The criminals that have approached the camp in the Kulikovo field can be seen on video from all angles. One can see how they destroyed the camp, how people ran into the Trade Unions building, how the criminals threw Molotov cocktails into the building, how they beat the people that were falling out of the windows. All this has been documented and is backed with extensive video footage. German journalist Ulrich Heyden shot a film telling about the tragedy in Odessa. Although he is not an investigator, the video available in the web proved enough for him to describe what happened there. Meantime, the government does not use these data, video footage and the evidences of the injured and the relatives of those killed. They interpret those incidents in their own way claiming that the people “burned themselves” and that there were “Russian terrorists and plotters” striving to undermine peace in Ukraine. Such interpretations mean that the crime will never be exposed.
The situation in Odessa is uneasy on the eve of second anniversary of that tragedy. What do you think, may that tragedy repeat?
It is a complicate process. The government fears public discontent and knows that it is an open wound for the residents of Odessa. Therefore, every time prior to May 2, it whips up tensions, so that people do not go to the Trade Unions building to lay flowers, to bring kindles and pay tribute to those killed there. You could see how Saakashvili’s mouth worked when he was speaking about the need to pull troops there. Many witnesses say that a big number of Azov militants and armory have been deployed there. The government seeks to defend itself from unarmed residents of Odessa. Of course, we hope there will be no bloodshed this time. It is suicidal to call on the unarmed people to come out against those armed groups inspired with hatred. Unfortunately, provocations are possible, because furious fascists seek victims. I do hope that we will not see new bloodshed on these tragic days in Odessa.
By Kristina Melnikova