Ukrainian rightists burn alive 39 at Odessa union building

Some 1,000 Ukrainian rightists, led by the notorious Right Sector, surrounded, stormed, and burned the House of Trade Unions in Odessa last Friday, killing 39 pro-Russia demonstrators in the building.

On their way to attacking the union hall, which was occupied by anti-Kiev government demonstrators fearing for their lives, the rightists recruited members of a Ukrainian football club, the Chernomorets, according to numerous reports in the European press and on line.

Many of those who attacked and burned the building wore swastikas and other fascist insignias, according to observers. Eye witnesses said that the fascists were armed with bats, shields, and metal chains and that the people inside the union hall had run there for protection from them. After the attack by the rightists streets around the trade union headquarters were reportedly stained with the blood of those who had jumped from windows to escape the flames.

Women and children were reported to be among those burned alive after initial rounds of shots and Molotov cocktails were thrown into the building by the right wingers.

The right wingers who burned the union headquarters had already set another pro-Russian encampment in Odessa afire. That encampment consisted of rows of tents  in Odessa’s Kulikova Field Square.

Police said that many of the victims at the House of Trade Unions had choked to death before burning up. The majority of the victims were found lying dead on the floors but some had jumped from windows, according to police.

As the union hall was engulfed in flames, photos posted on Twitter showed people hanging out of windows and sitting on windowsills where they appeared to be preparing to jump.

According to numerous reports those who jumped and survived were surrounded and beaten by right-wingers, including members of the football team.

The videos and photos showed Ukrainian riot police standing there doing nothing to stop or prevent the violence. The Ukrainian police said they could do nothing because they were “unarmed.”

Right Sector has bragged about its role in the killings on line and on YouTube:

“At first we broke through the side, and then we came through the main entrance,” said one pro-Kiev rightist who identified as a member of the group.

As the building burned some of the pro-Kiev activists said on Twitter that “Colorado beetles are being roasted up in Odessa,” using a derogatory term for the St. George’s ribbons worn by many of the anti-Kiev government demonstrators.

There were few official media outlets present, thus the heavy reliance on live streamed social media.

“The aim is to completely clear Odessa of pro-Russians,” said Dmitry Rogovsky, another Right Sector activist whose hand was injured during the fighting.

Increasing violence by the rightists is a growing embarrassment to the U.S. and the European Union, which have backed the right wing coup in Kiev and have tried to pin the blame for Ukraine’s troubles on Russia. Leading circles in those countries had hoped to use the coup government to force an IMF-designed austerity program on the Ukraine. If the right wingers continue to embarrass the West, however, U.S., EU and IMF plans for the Ukraine could go awry.

Photo: Trashed items are smoldering among debris following right-wing attacks in Odessa, Ukraine on May 2.  Sergei Poliakov/AP


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of