Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The New Barbarians

The new barbarism out of the Kiev coup-regime is something so shocking to the conscience, it's hard to fathom or even to recognize. Of course, I understand that the coup-regime is operating in the interests of its sponsors in the EU, NATO and the US, and its barbarism is not entirely due to their own lack of humanity, but still...

The rampaging of the so-called "Ukrainian Army" and self-proclaimed "National Guard" is barely reported in the West, in part because there are few or no correspondents on the ground who can witness and testify to what is going on, and there are fewer still who can do it in English. I'm finding that by necessity, I'm learning more Russian words and phrases (it seems that even in hyper-nationalist Ukraine, Russian is the lingua franca), but it's still a struggle for me to wade through Russian language text and videos. What's interesting, as a sidelight, is that although I only understand a few spoken words and phrases and can only read Russian with what I call "averted vision" (that is, if I try to read it, I can't, but if I just let it be there and don't try so hard, it's much easier to read) when I can find English versions of what I've seen in Russian, they're very similar to what I thought I was hearing or reading in Russian. How that happens, I don't know, but it's one of many fascinating aspects of this whole nightmare.

A nightmare, it most definitely is. The Odessa Massacre is the central element of this nightmare. It took place far away from the "operations" in the East, and I'm wondering now if it was a deliberate diversion from the military (or whatever passes for the Ukrainian military) efforts to overcome and destroy the so-called "terrorists" or "separatists" or "pro-Russian" elements which have claimed the civic apparatus in many Eastern cities.

During the height of the demonstrations against him, and the numerous seizures of government buildings that took place in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine during the rebellion, Yanukovych never sent troops to re-capture territory or buildings. He negotiated endlessly with the rebels, and ultimately he agreed to most of their demands -- and he was implementing them when he suddenly fled Kiev. His police were almost impossibly restrained in dealing with the protests and the rebels in Kiev and elsewhere. Most of them weren't armed at all, and they suffered grievous losses from injury and death at the hands of the rebels. Some of them were engulfed in the flames of Molotov cocktails, others were beaten by rebels or pelted with cobblestones, others still were shot by members of the rebellion. The few police who were armed rarely used their weapons, and generally only did so in self-defense. An exception might -- or might not -- be during the failed efforts to clear the protest camps from Maidan Square in Kiev. There were many reports of gunfire from the police into the protest encampments, and I certainly heard a lot of popping noises on the livestream. But there were also a lot of fireworks going off, and contingents of the protesters themselves were armed. Who was actually firing amid the fiery chaos that night and how many of the popping noises were actually gunshots is a mystery.

The sniper attack in Kiev was performed by persons unknown. While the Western propagandists insist that Yanukovych set the snipers to work on the crowd, there's no evidence he did, and there are suspicions that the snipers were in the employ of Svoboda. There is evidence they were shooting at the crowd and the police simultaneously.

At any rate, the rebellion itself was relatively barbaric, from first to last, in part because its "security" was provided by a coalition of fascist and Nazi political elements called the Right Sektor. It was brutal. Svoboda may have been trying to mitigate its reputation and moderate its future, but Right Sektor was and is proudly nativist, reactionary, fascist and Nazi, through and through. They brutalized and killed those on their outlist. This was during the rebellion.

The Right Sektor was given prominent "security" responsibility after Yanukovych's government collapsed, and many of its members are said to have joined the so-called National Guard now operating in the East.

Many others are said to have been bused down to Odessa for the fiery festivities on May 2.

This was said during the Odessa riots on May 2, but I didn't see any evidence it was so. It looked to me like the rioting was spontaneous and the product of domestic animosities in Odessa. There had been previous riots there, after all, in which the same or similar elements collided leaving plenty of destruction and injury in their wake. There had also been many more or less peaceful contending demonstrations -- "pro-" and "anti-" Maidan, as they were characterized.

But then questions were raised about just how "spontaneous" all the rioting was. There were more and more indications that the rioting was deliberately incited by police and a shadowy group of "protesters" who seemed to be on both sides, egging each on to ever greater levels of violence, and firing weapons from both sides.

It appeared to me that the "anti-Maidan" side withdrew from the fray -- they were outnumbered -- and retreated... somewhere. The reports of the aftermath are not entirely clear regarding what happened to the "Antimaydanskis" -- they seemed to just melt away.

Meanwhile a contingent of "Pro-Maidan" young people took off at a run to the "Antimaydansky" encampment at the Trade Union building. It is quite a distance from the center of town where the rioting had been under way to the park where the Trade Union building is located. Well over a mile.

Once they arrived, several hundred of them, they attacked the encampment with a vengeance. They demolished it and burned the debris, then set upon the building itself. The Antimaydansky demonstrators, mostly women and older men -- how many, I don't know, there are reports of as few as dozens to as many as hundreds -- had retreated into the building for safety from the mob. The mob threw Molotov cocktails at the building and at least one man in the mob was firing a gun at the building (shown prominently in a number of videos taken at the scene. He, it is said, was also active in Kiev during the demonstrations there, and his name is said to be Micola.)

In fact, a number of people in the mob were recognized as either Right Sektor militants from Kiev or Maidan demonstrators from Kiev or as police commanders from Kiev. It's understandable that some people in Odessa would see the tragic episodes and the Massacre as instigated by Kiev.

Once the encampment was destroyed, a contingent of Right Sektor militants gained access to the interior of the building via a side entrance where a door had somehow been wrenched and twisted off its hinges. There are videos of these armed Right Sektor militants rampaging on the first and second floor well before any fires are ignited in the building.

Other members of the mob stayed outside the building throughout the assault, some of them lobbing Molotov cocktails, others stoning the building, or taunting those inside.

But it seems clear that Right Sektor militants were inside the Trade Union building from almost the first moments the mob arrived -- and maybe even before.

What happened inside is still being pieced together, but I can say that when I first saw videos of the inside of the building broadcast on Vremya Odessa on the night of the Massacre, I didn't believe what I was seeing. The place was wrecked and there were numerous burned and dead bodies shown in a video recording apparently taken moments after the fires were put out. I didn't even think it was the same building. Another live video showed the interior of the building, and it didn't seem so horrifying. The place looked pretty well trashed, to be sure, but not as badly as in the recorded video, and there was only one dead body in the live shots I saw that night, and it didn't look burned.

Later, I would understand that these videos were taken in different locations within the building, and that only parts of the building were burned. The recorded video was taken near the front entrance where an intense blaze burned for about an hour before the fire brigade arrived to put it out, and everything near the front entrance was charred, bodies and all. The live video I'd seen was taken at a side staircase where there had been no fire and very little damage had occurred. The dead body in the live shot was... a mystery.

Live video showed badly injured people in a pile outside the building, some being tended to by medics, but many simply tossed into a heap to bleed and moan. There were live scenes of violence to the injured and scenes of triumphant gloating by the mob, singing and chanting their victory songs.

Police roused the survivors of the massacre and roughly handled them, placing most in police vans (a few wound up in ambulances) where they sat unattended for hours. Eventually, they were transported to the jail where they were held until the next day, when they were released upon strident protest by another "mob" of friends and relations. Others, I'm told, were not so fortunate and are still being detained. Some 250 injuries were reported, more than two dozen serious.

Not one of the attackers has been detained, so I've read.

I was initially leery of reports of Right Sektor militant involvement in the riot and Massacres, but I've seen them in numerous videos, and I saw them live during a march and rally the next day, trying to incite more violence, so I don't doubt it. But it wasn't just Right Sektor. There was another, more shadowy, element involved in the riot and Massacre. No one seems to know who they were or where they came from, but they have been identified by the red armbands they wore. They seemed to be on both sides of the rioters and they were among police as well. They seemed to be the ones instigating the violence -- on both sides.

All against all, I guess.

I've read reports of Right Sektor militants inside the Trade Union building shooting, stabbing and beating to death anyone they came across, or anyone they could lure to their deaths from hiding places. I've seen videos of bodies in hallways and offices, some of them shot, others perished by unknown means, so the stories of Right Sektor thugs combing the building for victims seem valid enough, given the fact that I've also seen videos of Right Sektor militants rampaging inside the building well before fires raged.

There is no reason to doubt the testimony of those survivors who say they saw and heard Right Sektor militants throughout the building during the time it was being attacked from outside, and they heard shots, and the saw their comrades killed.

The survivors are said to number about 100. The dead are said to number anywhere from 40 to over a hundred, and there are reports -- to date unverified -- that many of the dead were dumped in the basement where one presumes they still are.

There is a big question in my mind about the intense blazes inside the building in which a dozen or more people were apparently burned alive. The fires that killed these people had to have happened very suddenly and they had to have been extremely large and intense for them to kill so many people almost instantly.

A Molotov cocktail is incapable of such instant incineration.

Something else caused the fires at the front entrance and the back stairwell where most of the burned bodies were found.

There is scant video evidence so far of how these fires started. There are numerous shots of Molotov cocktails being thrown at the building, and there is video of fires already burning at the front entrance and back stairwell, but so far as I've been able to find, there is no posted video of the start of those fires.

I wonder if the front entrance and the back stairwell are connected?

The fires in each are very similar, and I wonder if they are actually the same fire.

There is video that shows the back stairwell both before and immediately after the fire began there -- but not as the fire started -- and it suggests that there was a sudden and overwhelming flash over of smoke and fire, initially just heavy black smoke, which filled much of the stairwell. Many people apparently jumped for their lives at the instant the smoke and fire began in the back stairwell, for there is heart-wrenching video of a pile of perhaps ten badly injured men on the ground below the stairwell windows immediately after the fire begins. Some of the men are burned, but most seem to be bloodied about the head and face. They landed in a pile of wood debris and broken glass.

Police and bystanders pulled the injured victims away from the burning stairwell, but many people were trapped inside, and it looks like no one who could not or did not get away fast enough survived the fire in the back stairwell or at the front entrance.

The people who died in the fire have been blamed by some of the Kiev propagandists for starting it. They may have, but I've seen no evidence that they did. The claim has been made that the defenders of the Trade Union building were throwing Molotov cocktails at the mob outside, but I've seen no evidence of that, either.

Instead, I've seen abundant video evidence that Molotov cocktails were being thrown at the building, and many started fires inside it.

But those fires mostly burned out fairly quickly. The fires at the main entrance and the back stairwell burned fiercely -- for an hour or maybe more in the case of the front entrance, many minutes at the back stairwell.

Something fueled the fire at the main entrance, something more than gasoline, and something caused a flashover fire at the back stairwell, perhaps the same something that fueled the front entrance fire.

Whatever the case, what happened in Odessa, from the riots in the center of town to the Massacre at the Trade Union building was barbaric in the extreme. It appears to have been instigated in Kiev or through the agency of the coup-regime in Kiev, and it may have been deliberately engineered to distract from faltering military operations in the East, possibly even intended to provoke Russia into a military response.

To the extent it accomplished anything, however, it seems to have hardened the lines of division in Odessa, frightened the residents terribly, angered much of the population, and emboldened the radical elements looking for a fight.

As they say, "This will not end well..."

UPDATE: This video of the interior of the Odessa Trade Union building posted by TV basically confirms some of my suspicions about the fires that raged at the front entrance and rear stair well on May 2. It also made me cry, for the horror of what happened there can't be avoided, and the expressions on the faces of the people gathered for the memorial for the dead are heartbreaking in the extreme.

The front entrance and  rear stairwell are directly connected, and apart from the doors and window frames, there is nothing flammable either in the entrance or the stairwell. Construction appears to be stone veneer and plaster on a core of concrete blocks. The only wood or other flammable material was the door and window frames and the heavy doors themselves.

Yet the fire (it was apparently a single fire) burned with extreme intensity and for quite a long time in the entrance lobby and the stairwell, killing numerous people who had no time to flee the flames.

Interestingly, but not all that surprisingly, there is a room directly off the entrance lobby that appears to be separated from it only by a metal grille. That room was full of papers, cardboard boxes and other highly flammable material, none or very little of which appears to have burned. Yet the stone and plaster of the lobby and stairwell show signs of intense heat and even some of the thick window glass of the stairwell appears to be partially melted.

This is where the people were burned alive. Suddenly. It happened when some kind of incendiary material flashed into flame and burned fiercely in this single area for an hour or more.

The stairwell acted as a chimney, lofting smoke and flame up through all five stories in an instant.

What was the cause?
BTW, this story of "what happened" is patently false in every way.  For those who don't like to open FOX News items, the story quotes Kiev coup-regime "investigators" who assert that the fire started on the upper floors when Molotov cocktails the defenders were making on the roof somehow "fell" and ignited. This did not happen.

The fire in the entrance lobby and rear stair well began there and burned fiercely for over an hour.

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