Location USA USA

Odessa Solidarity Day

American human right defenders and anti-war activists organized a world campaign of solidarity with Odessa. Odessa is a city located at the Northern coast of the Black see. Previously it was known mainly as a cultural and trade center. But in the last years Odessa has appeared in the news as a place of fascist crime and political repression. Three years ago, on May 2, Ukrainian neo-fascists burned alive 46 political opponents. Since that time, the Kiev government that relies on fascists’ support has sabotaged an investigation of this crime and oppressed victims’ relatives as well as progressive residents of Odessa who have been demanding justice.

After the arrest of Alexander Kushnaryov and Anatoly Slobodyanik, the Odessa Solidarity Campaign called progressive forces to visit Ukrainian embassies and consulates on April 10 to deliver a letter calling on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to release all political prisoners and stop the current repression in Odessa. April 10 has not been chosen by accident as the International Day of Solidarity with People of Odessa: the date has a great significance for all Odessans as it marks the day in 1944 when the city was liberated from years of fascist occupation during the Second World War.

The letter addressed to the President of Ukraine states:

“In recent years, international observers, human rights activists, independent journalists and members of the public have witnessed an unprecedented increase in violence in Ukraine. This country, whose people were traditionally considered friendly, hospitable, tolerant and cultured, has become an arena for bloody battles and civil conflicts.

One of the most revealing examples of this was the events in Odessa on May 2, 2014, when at least 46 people died as a result of clashes. National mourning was declared at the time, which led the world community to believe that Ukraine mourned all the victims of May 2.

However, three years after the Odessa tragedy, we clearly understand that the authorities have applied the country’s law in a one-sided manner. Everyone being prosecuted today is from the Anti-Maidan camp, while those associated with the Maidan camp – against whom there has been ample evidence of having committed crimes – remain at large, with no signs of them being brought to justice.

We especially want to bring attention to the fate of the relatives of those who died on May 2. For three years, they have been subjected to painful emotional suffering because the memory of their deceased is constantly exposed to defamation and desecration, both in the Ukrainian media and on the part of the so-called “patriots” who systematically and with sophisticated cruelty exert pressure on the elderly, vulnerable relatives, exacerbating their difficult psychological condition.

Most recently, Alexander Kushnaryov, the 65-year-old father of the deceased Gennady Kushnaryov, was arrested and imprisoned. The Ukrainian law enforcement agencies do not hide the fact that the retiree Kushnaryov, who had barely survived the death of his son and had lost faith that those responsible would receive their just punishment, was the victim of a sting operation. Taking advantage of his depressed state and decreased critical perception, Alexander Kushnaryov was dragged into a discussion of certain plans, after which the law enforcement agents staged his participation in the false kidnapping of the parliament member Alexei Goncharenko. Also arrested in connection with this alleged kidnapping was Anatoly Slobodyanik, 68, a retired military officer and the head of the Odessa Organization of Veterans of Armed Forces.

These facts, as well as the lack of humanity shown by the court in refusing to consider alternatives to pretrial confinement for these two elderly men, testifies to a biased and unfair attitude towards those around whom the authorities are trying to create a mythical image of “enemies of Ukraine.”

International bodies – the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Parliament, official representatives of the governments of the world’s largest states, in particular the U.S. State Department – have repeatedly urged the Ukrainian authorities to apply uniform standards of justice for all Ukrainian citizens. Failure to heed this advice will result in a general opinion in society that there is an absence of justice, which would be extremely dangerous in the conditions of modern Ukraine.

We call on the Ukrainian authorities to fulfill their direct duties to society and to prosecute those who personally and directly killed the Odessites on May 2, representing the side of the Euro-Maidan.

We demand they release Alexander Kushnaryov and Anatoly Slobodyanik and stop the provocations against relatives of the victims of 2 May in Odessa.

We appeal to the Ukrainian authorities to create the necessary conditions for the peaceful development of the country. Do not divide society by providing patronage and direct protection to one of the opposing sides that has arbitrarily appropriated the title of “patriots of Ukraine.” These people have no right to violence. We draw the attention of the Ukrainian authorities to the fact that the fulfillment of all these requirements is the duty of any civilized state and is not subject to discussion or hesitation.

Unless these duties are fulfilled, Ukraine risks remaining outside the civilized world.”

According to information received, international anti-fascist groups visited Ukrainian representative offices delivering the letter in Washington, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Bern and Stockholm. There was also a rally near the Ukrainian consulate in San Francisco.

The most important place of action was the US capital. For years, Washington has been helping Poroshenko despite the upsurge of right-wing violence in Ukraine. Phil Wilayto from United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and Raymond McGovern from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) delivered the letter to the Embassy of Ukraine. In the past, numerous attempts to get in contact with the Ukrainian embassy in DC have been futile. This time, a Ukrainian official was not happy about receiving the letter, but nevertheless Ukrainian diplomats were not able to hinder the activists’ plans.

Washington, DC

San Francisco

After the action, Mr. Wilayto and Mr. McGovern gave an interview to the media. “There has been such a total news whiteout on the subject that we are hoping we can get attention,” Wilayto said on his way to the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, DC. He was right. Media completely ignored his interview. The only English-language media outlet that published his statements was Russian ‘Sputnik’. But the report was extremely brief: “We know that when you deliver something to a local embassy, it has to be reported to Kiev. So ironically, we are using the Ukrainian government structure to help our approach.” – ‘Sputnik’ cites Wilayto.

The Russian TASS agency also published the interview in Russian. Here it is translated back into English:

“We are here today to draw attention to the fact that at the moment, brutal political repression is being used in Odessa, Ukraine,” project coordinator Phil Wilayto, representative of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC), said. “It is directed against relatives of people killed by fascist thugs in the House of Trade Unions on the Kulikovo Field on May 2, 2014″.

The American anti-war activist reminded that the government in Kiev, “coming to power as a result of an unlawful violent coup,” prevents in every possible way a real investigation of the Odessa tragedy. The purpose of the current action, he said, is “to warn the Ukrainian government that the world is already partially aware of what is happening.” “And we are determined to ensure that the whole world knows this,” he stressed.

“These are our demands: to release all political prisoners in Odessa and Ukraine, to stop reprisals against the relatives of the victims of the fire in the House of Trade Unions, to rebuff fascism in Ukraine and throughout the world!” Wilayto said.

For his part, Raymond McGovern, a former high-ranking analyst of the US CIA and now a human rights activist, reminded that some of his colleagues “call a coup d’état in Ukraine the most egregious one in history.” As for the repression, he said it was “an integral part of proto-fascist coups”.

Odessa Solidarity Campaign in the US started under the previous Democratic administration headed by Barack Obama. When asked by the TASS correspondent whether the activists tried to find mutual understanding on this issue with the current Republican administration of Donald Trump, Wilayto answered in the negative. “Although Mr. Trump expressed his opinion in favor of improving relations with Russia, it is clear to us that the 1% of people who really are at the helm of our country, as well as the Pentagon, explained to him what is what,” he said about the head of the current administration. “And now he does not say anymore things like that.”

“He no longer says anything about the fact that he is not interested in the removal of Assad,” continued the project coordinator. “He sent Carl Vinson to the coast of Korea, which is extremely dangerous. We will not ask him for help in the current situation [in Odessa], nor did we ask the Obama administration for it. We demand from them all: “Hands off the rest of the world! “

“I know that people in Odessa can see this reportage,” he added, looking into the camera, “we want them to know about our solidarity, we will support them in any way we can. We salute their determination to fight fascism and dictatorship. They are heroes for us. “

While in the USA the action led by the Odessa Solidarity Campaign took place without any troubles, in Europe it faced some problems. In Bern, Switzerland, participants of the action came out to the Ukrainian Embassy with signs that called on the Ukrainian government to release political prisoners in Odessa, in particular, Alexander Kushnaryov and Anatoly Slobodyanik who were arrested in a governmental frame-up and have been in detention since the end of February this year. Having been informed that the activists planned to deliver a letter to the consul, the embassy personnel called the police, insisting that it was prohibited to take pictures in front of the building. The Ukrainian consul, informed of the situation, refused to personally accept the letter asking the police that they forbid the protesters to approach the embassy.

Solidarity-BernBern, Switzerland

In Berlin, a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian Embassy was attended by antifascist activists together with one of the survivors of the Odessa massacre of May 2. Signs with slogans “Odessa is the hero city”, “Fascism will not pass”, “Criminal authorities of Ukraine to answer”, and “NATO aggressor” were held on display on the scene. Demonstrators mentioned fascist struggle in Ukraine and in Donbas as well as the big number of political prisoners of so-called preventive action.

According to the participants, they were forbidden by the police to hold the demonstration in the requested place of their preference and instead were asked to move further away. As they were explained, it was due to another demonstration scheduled at the very same place and time. Of course, there was no other demonstration; it was just a pretext used by the police to keep the demonstrators further away, most probably, on the request from the Ukrainian embassy.

Berlin, Germany




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