|The Aftermath, Odessa, May 3, 2014 (from Howard Amos's Twitter stream)|
I'm still in a state of shock over what I witnessed on the Vremya Odessa livestream yesterday. I watched it periodically throughout the day, and it's running in another tab on my laptop right now. Today there appears to be shock and great sadness in the streets over what happened yesterday, I couldn't make out enough of what was being said to be sure.
I don't understand Ukrainian at all and I can only pick out a few words of Russian from the text and dialog that I see on the screen, but it was clear enough yesterday what was going on from the visuals.
There was an anti-Kiev-putsch rally going on near the center of town (Odessa is quite a large city); marchers claiming to be "pro-Ukraine" confronted the rally and became aggressive. There were repeated confrontations between rock-throwers on both sides. The anti-Kiev group attempted to find safety, but there was none to be found in the streets. They barricaded themselves on a side street near the center of town where they were relentlessly assaulted with stones and in a few cases with Molotov cocktails. The anti-Kiev group also threw stones and other objects at those who were throwing stones at them. It was not possible to tell for sure, but it appeared that at least one Molotov cocktail was thrown from the anti-Kiev group towards the pro-Kiev group, but it landed far short of any effective goal, and it burned purposely on a berm. The rock-throwing between groups went on for quite some time. Some people had guns and were firing into (it looked like) both groups, but the scenes of gunfire were too brief to really know who was firing at what.
Eventually, riot police formed a line between the sides, appearing to protect the anti-Kiev side. They continued to be hit with stones and other objects, but it looked like the anti-Kiev side was dispersing while their attackers were emboldened.
Meanwhile, a group of anti-Kiev-putsch activists had formed a small encampment in the square outside the trade union building (initially referred to as the administration building.) The encampment was assaulted by hundreds of young toughs armed with bats, chains, Molotov cocktails and possibly guns. The encampment was set on fire, and the anti-Kiev activists sought shelter in the trade union building.
The building was set on fire -- how, is not entirely clear. There were strong fires burning in the front entrance and in several of the wings. Much smoke and flame. Trapped people were on ledges apparently on every floor. Some jumped and were killed. Others jumped and survived though seriously injured. Others were overcome by smoke inside. The riot police tried to carry away as many of those who could escape the burning building as possible, and even some in the crowd of angry pro-Kiev rioters tried to help the injured. People were throwing things from the windows toward the crowds outside. There were people on the roof, and it was said they were firing guns into the crowd below. There were reports of bodies lying dead all around the building. Later, two or three bodies were shown lying apparently dead in the streets.
I saw Molotov cocktails being thrown from the pro-Kiev rioters and hit the building, but this was after the fires were already burning inside the building.
I saw some people emerge from the building and be assaulted and beaten by members of the crowd; a pile of injured was forming in front of the building. More and more were being added. Blood was everywhere, broken, burned, smoke-covered bodies were piled on others. Some no doubt were dead. It was shocking and horrible to watch. Police stood around as more and more people were brought out, beaten, and thrown on the pile. Eventually some were removed to waiting ambulances and police vans. Some were assaulted, and one was viciously kicked by a man in camo fatigues as he sat by one of the police vans.
Eventually police surrounded the vans that held many of the injured and prevented the crowd from further assaults on them. The crowd could be heard chanting and singing in triumph. The fires were put out, and the camera entered the building. The lights were on inside, and there was one body on a stair landing. It didn't looked burned, but smoke inhalation was said to have been the primary killer of those inside.
Today there are religious services and other memorials going on outside the building while the police block the entrance. I've seen older distraught women interviewed, but I didn't understand what they were saying. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people gathered outside the trade union building, many obviously moved by what happened there.
There have been a number of people in the studio and people calling in attempting to explain what happened and report what they saw.
While it appears that Vremya Odessa is pro-Kiev, they seem to be trying to report what happened honestly.
I've heard almost no mention of Pravyi Sektor involved in the events yesterday, but there has been some mention of "hooligans" and football enthusiasts among those attacking the anti-Kiev demonstrators.
Howard Amos was on scene and tweeting throughout, and he wrote reports of the mayhem and carnage for the Guardian. These were among the only eyewitness stories appearing in English during the day and night yesterday.
I haven't seen much of anything else in English that I would believe about what happened in Odessa yesterday.
There were military assaults on Slavyansk and Kramatorsk yesterday, too, which, according to the junta in Kiev, resulted in dozens of dead in both cities. Truth is hard to come by, however, as propaganda rules.