The killing of Ukrainians and the burning of Russian loyalists .. What happened in Odessa on May 2, 2014?

Pro-Russians present flowers in front of the Council of Trade Unions in Odessa where about 40 activists were killed on May 2, 2014. – –

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Moscow has launched several attacks. First towards the west, to try to capture Kyiv, which remained out of reach. Then, in the second “phase” of the “special operation” announced by Vladimir Putin, the Russian forces withdrew towards the east and the Donbass River. However, the south was not spared: the martyred city of Mariupol is still being bombed, and Odessa is more than ever within sight of the Kremlin. And Saturday, the airport runway was destroyed by a Russian strike, but there were no casualties.

This cosmopolitan city, the main port of Ukraine, is both strategic and symbolic for Russia. Located on the shores of the Black Sea, Odessa is a major place for the local economy, where grain exports pass and where the oil and chemical industries are important, and is connected by pipelines to the rest of Europe and Russia.

Odessa, the center of “New Russia”, wanted by Putin

Odessa is considered the birthplace of Vladimir Putin’s “new Russia” and is also home to a large Russian-speaking community, making it a target for the Kremlin. Despite divisions between pro-Kyiv and pro-Russian, the port city has managed to resist separatist impulses, which have led to armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and killed more than 14,000 people since 2014. However, periods of high tension have passed in recent years, It witnessed violent clashes, such as May 2, 2014, 8 years ago until today. This history has left lasting traces in both the Russian imagination and Ukrainian society. During clashes between pro-Russians and Ukrainians, 48 ​​people were killed, which led to an escalation of tensions between the two countries, which commemorate this every year.

The Russian president even referred to this incident during his February 21 speech, justifying the “discredit” of Ukraine.

876450610001_6299851484001 “One cannot remember the terrible tragedy in Odessa without fear of horror, in which peaceful demonstrators were brutally murdered and burned alive in the Trade Union Council. The criminals who committed these atrocities were not punished”, no one is looking for them. “We know their names and we will do everything in our power to find them and bring them to justice,” Vladimir Putin said.

From the European field to the annexation of Crimea

What happened on May 2, 2014 in Odessa? To understand the context in which the tragedy occurred, we have to go back a few months ago, to November 2013. The then Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign an association agreement between his country and the EU, preferring Russia to the EU. The decision launched a large pro-European movement, with large demonstrations: it is the birth of the European Square.

The demonstrations are punctuated by violence that increases the volume of mobilization. The movement led to the February Revolution, also called the Maidan Revolution, which led to the downfall and flight of President Yanukovych, who was impeached by Parliament. Subsequently, a pro-European government was appointed in the process, which exacerbated tensions and separatist tendencies in Crimea.

The peninsula, which does not recognize the new powers, votes in vagueness to organize a referendum on its connection with Russia. The poll was taken on March 16, and “Yes” won in favor of Attachment with 96.8%. Two days later, Russia, which had been occupying some strategic places in Crimea since the end of February, incorporated the Crimea, without much resistance from the young government in Kyiv, which did not have a sufficient basis for a response.

The beginning of a war in Donbass

In April 2014, anti-Maidan protests in the Donbass region escalated into a war against the new Ukrainian regime. Pro-Russians declared the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which respectively became the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and then the “Luhansk People’s Republic”. The Ukrainian army intervened before being repelled, while Kyiv accused Russia of supporting the separatists militarily.


In this context, the bloody episode occurred on May 2, 2014. While the tensions between pro-Russian and pro-Maidan are at their peak, a rally for national unity is being organized by pro-Europeans. The procession is attacked by pro-Russians, and the first two killed are two pro-Ukrainians, shot dead.

Clashes between pro-Russians and Ukrainians

As news of the attack spread, supporters of the Maidan party organized via social media and called for the destruction of the pro-Russian headquarters, under the eyes of the overwhelmed police. The balance of power overturned, and the latter turned to the Council of Trade Unions. The two camps send Molotov cocktails to each other, setting the building on fire, trapping the militants. 42 of them died, being poisoned by smoke or jumping out of windows, trying to escape from the flames. A total of 48 people died.

May 2 logically escalated the tension and helped strengthen the Kremlin’s propaganda, as the armed conflict began in the east. as pointed out the worldOn the occasion of the first anniversary of the May 2 commemoration, “the images of charred bodies broadcast on television prompted hundreds of young Russians to come and fight in the eastern Donbass.”

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