war crimes in Ukraine

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Finding the real culprits of the events in Odesa on May 2, 2014

Halya Coynash
A bill just tabled in Ukraine’s parliament could, if passed, put an end to ‘chance prosecutions’ in connection with the tragic disturbances and fire in Odesa on May 2, 2014, and help the investigators to find those responsible for the death of 48 people and multiple injuries that day.

A bill just tabled in Ukraine’s parliament could, if passed, put an end to ‘chance prosecutions’ in connection with the tragic disturbances and fire in Odesa on May 2, 2014, and help the investigators to find those responsible for the death of 48 people and multiple injuries that day.

The draft law, proposed by Oleksiy Honcharenko, who is himself from Odesa, proposes waiving liability for all those accused only of taking part in the disturbances in the centre of Odesa or on Kulikovo Pole.  In the explanatory note to No. 2885 he explains that the aim of the law is to reduce social tension in Odesa and the southern region.

He writes that at present anybody can face charges of taking part in mass riots and asserts, rather controversially, that the vast majority of those people were defending the country’s territorial integrity and independence.  It should also be taken into account, he writes, that some of those who took part in the events on May 2 were conned by anti-Ukrainian propaganda or a wrong understanding of the events in 2013/14.

The bill, if passed, will release and / or waive prosecution of most of the people presently facing charges.  As reported here, serious concern, especially from the May 2 Group, has been expressed over the arbitrary nature of most of the prosecutions with the same vague ‘participation in mass riots’ applying just as well to the hundreds who have not been charged.   

The trial began on Nov 27, 2014, and is continuing, of 21 pro-federalism activists.  One of the reasons for the constant delays with the trial is the seriously flawed nature of the indictment. 

There is serious evidence against only one defendant – Serhiy Dolzhenkov – who is alleged to have organized and led the attack on the pro-Ukrainian unity march. There seems to be nothing at all against the other defendants, although 11 of them remain in custody.  The same formulation is used in the charges against each of them, with no specific charges against any individual. All are said to have: “taken an active part in mass disturbances, namely throwing stones, sticks and other items at people in order to cause damage to life and health, and resisted police officers”.

The same charges could be laid against around 4 thousand other people, both pro-unity and pro-federalism activists.  Some may now be facing trial simply because they ran slower and didn’t get away in time.

Concern has also been expressed by the lawyers of some of the men that testimony has been used against their clients from a person, known only as Oleksandr P, who is currently himself in detention, is a drug addict with a couple of convictions behind him.  All of this, they allege, would make it very easy to put pressure on him to give the required testimony.

Both pro-unity and pro-federalism activists were involved in the violence, making it already worrying that numerically far more pro-federalism activists are facing charges.

The bill, if adopted, will not cover the following:

Artem Davydchenko (in hiding) and Serhiy Dolzhenkov (in custody) who are both accused of organizing the disturbances;

Petro Lutsyuk, former head of the Odesa regional police who was placed under house arrest on March 13, 2015.  He is charged with professional negligence, in particular over the failure to implement a vital Action Plan aimed at preventing riots;

Ex-deputy head of the Odesa regional police, Dmytro Fuchedzhy who is in hiding, probably in the self-proclaimed and pro-Russian breakaway ‘state’ Transnistria.

Botsman (Vitaly Budko) is believed to have been one of the main initiators of the trouble, and he can be seen, for example, in the video clips below, brandishing a shortened version of a Kalashnikov rifle.  The May 2 Group has recently published more evidence which they believe confirms that he was using real firearms.  He, on the other hand, asserted in an interview given to that he was firing blank bullets.  Witness testimony suggests possible collusion between Botsman and Fuchedzhy, with the latter possibly having helped Botsman to escape the scene. 

Serhiy Khodiyak

This Euromaidan activist is suspected of shooting at people on Grecheskaya Square on May 2.  He is alleged to have caused the death of at least one person (Yevhen Losynksy). 

It has been a matter of some concern that he was initially only placed under house arrest, while others, facing lesser charges, were remanded in custody.  House arrest can only be extended twice meaning that by November Khodiyak was free of any restrictions on his movements.

One other person must be mentioned here because of Russian propaganda.  The latter has, since the first days after the tragedy been showing video footage of  ‘Mykola’ (Mykola Volkov), a Euromaidan activist who is shown shooting at the Trade Union building.  The Russian footage carefully edits out the abundant evidence that Volkov was shooting at a specific window from which explosives were being hurled at the pro-unity activists.  The Russian media also never mention the evidence, confirmed by Serhiy Dibrov, member of the May 2 Group who was standing near Volkov, that the latter was using a shock pistol. 

Mykola Volkov died of tuberculosis on Sunday, Feb 15.  Dibrov says that he had not been arrested because, in spite of the propaganda images, there was nothing to charge him with, except the same ‘participation in disturbances’.


If passed, the draft bill would remove a major obstacle to establishing what really happened on May 2.  At present, many witnesses understandably avoid coming forward because their testimony lays them open to charges of ‘participation in disturbances’. 

There remain numerous questions that need to be answered over the events on May 2, 2015, and not only because the Russian propaganda machine is trying so very hard to push a ‘massacre’ narrative and lay the blame for everything on ‘radical nationalists’. 

48 people lost their lives – their families, and all Odesa residents deserve answers.

Please also see:  Movement at last in Odesa 2 May investigation



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