On May 2nd, 2014 Ukrainian neo-Nazis, with the direct connivance of the Ukrainian authorities, shot and burned to death more than 100 people in Odessa. According to some estimates the number of victims of the massacre included up to 300. Among the victims were women, children and the elderly. The Odessa tragedy predetermined the further escalation of the conflict in the East of Ukraine and the beginning of military operations in Donbass.
Pro-Western Coup: The First Blood
Before the events of May 2nd, 2014, Odessa was one of the centers of resistance to the coup d’etat in which the leaders of pro-EU street protests in the capital of the country, Kiev, came to power. Politicians who supported the West (EU and US) provoked clashes with the security forces in Kiev. As a result of such provocations, the first blood was shed. Unidentified snipers most likely subordinated to the head of the Maidan “defense forces”, Andrew Parubiy, provoked armed clashes in which more than a hundred people were killed. Neo-Nazi groups unified over the course of the events on the Maidan into the “Right Sector” organization actively participated in the coup. Dmitry Yarosh, the then head of Right Sector, was also assistant to the former head of the Ukrainian Security Service, Valentin Nayvaychenko, who is known for having close ties to the CIA.
The South-East Reacts
The new leadership of Ukraine decided to completely subjugate the country’s foreign policy to the West. The parliament, out of which deputies from the former ruling “Party of Regions” were squeezed, began to distribute ministerial positions to outspoken neo-Nazis. The law protecting the regional status of the Russian language and other languages of national minorities was abolished. As a result, the predominantly Russian-speaking majority of the South-East of the country, who consider themselves to be part of the Russian World, recognized the intentions of the government to be clearly hostile. Large-scale protests began across the South and East of Ukraine, and in March 2014 Crimea held a referendum on sovereign secession and then joined the Russian Federation, which could not dare leave this strategically important peninsula to an uncertain geopolitical future as part of Ukraine. In April 2014, rebels in the Donetsk region proceeded to form an armed resistance to Kiev. Odessa as well remained one of the most strategically important cities in which the majority of the population did not consider themselves Ukrainians and had no desire to live under the new, nationalist Ukraine.
The geopolitical significance of Odessa
The new Ukrainian leadership recognized that the loss of Odessa would mean a geopolitical catastrophe which would inevitably provoke, via domino effect, the collapse of the country. Such a prospect was realized given the facts of Odessa’s situation: since Spring 2014, pro-Russian forces in Odessa had actively called for the inhabitants of Odessa to repeat the Crimean scenario echoing the head of Russian Crimea, Aksenov. In addition, Odessa was in close proximity to pro-Russian Transnistria which was home to a Russian military base and its own 15,000 strong military force. If necessary, Russia also could have transferred some of its troops to Odessa from Crimea.
At the time, Odessa remained the last major sea port of Ukraine, with the exception of Nikolaev and Mariupol whose fate at that moment hung in the balance. The Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet which had departed from now Russian Sevastopol was also based in Odessa. Thus, the loss of Odessa would have immediately entailed the loss of Nikolaev and the cutting off of Ukraine from the sea. These considerations explain why Ukrainian neo-Nazis were given a carte blanche to intimidate the population of Odessa, and they indeed took advantage of this. The agonizing death of more than 100 people, for which none of the perpetrators have been punished, was primarily a tool of intimidation. Following the massacre on May 2nd in Odessa, the pro-Russian movement was virtually destroyed.
The role of the Odessa events in the escalation of the conflict
However, the massacre in Odessa also bore some unforeseen consequences for its organizers. With this tragedy, the Ukrainian national idea had clearly demonstrated its monstrous, inhuman traits. The fact that a significant portion of Ukrainians joyfully welcomed the painful death of more than a hundred of their fellow citizens once again demonstrated the destructive, nihilistic character of Ukrainian nationalism. This contributed to the opposite side’s bitterness and ultimate split from the Ukrainian society. It was the tragedy in Odessa which in fact contributed to the growth of radicalism in Donbass and served as the main factor that inspired locals and most of the volunteers from other regions of Ukraine and CIS countries to take up arms. Organizers of the Odessa massacre temporarily retained Odessa, but lost parts of Donbass. For one part of Ukraine’s population, what happened in Odessa became a point of pride. For the other, it was a terrible crime which demonstrated that they would never be able to co-exist with the others in one country unless Ukraine would be de-Nazified.
The growth of anti-Ukrainian sentiments in Russia
The Odessa events and the ensuing war crimes committed by the Ukrainian side contributed to the isolation of Ukraine from Russia not only at the state level, but also at the level of society. For the first time in history, Ukraine is now perceived as something separate from Russia, and only in a negative sense. Earlier, the Ukrainian leadership could exploit remaining Soviet-era myths of the “friendship of peoples” and the proximity of the two countries, but following the events in Donbass and Odessa this mechanism no longer worked. The willingness of the Russian leadership to establish dialogue with Poroshenko as a “lesser evil” was complicated by Russian society’s newfound rejection of dialogue with Ukrainians. Thus, the memory of the Odessa massacre impedes the efforts of Russia’s sixth column to reintegrate Donbass into Ukraine.
Martyrs of liberal totalitarianism
From a global perspective, the massacre in Odessa is one of many episodes in which the West (Europe and the US) has committed the most brutal crimes for the sake of geopolitical forces and alliances. This is also paralleled by their support for violent thugs in Syria. This policy is nothing new, as the savage nature of such bloody crimes was exposed for the first time in anti-Serb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Overall, these crimes demonstrate the emptiness of all the “humanitarian” promises of European and American liberalism.