Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
What actually led to the massacre, and who is guilty of it. Main questions and answers.
The author of these lines is engaged in an investigation into the circumstances of the bloody mass riots in Odessa on May 2nd, 2014, about three years ago. And although during these years we learned about the events of the May massacre a lot, so far not one of the investigators tried to formulate a distinct theory of events concerning the variety of political, psychological, administrative, and technical factors influencing their development. This text is indeed destined to become an attempt at the creation of such an “overall” theory.
I will emphasize: the discourse here is not about certain phenomenal revelations, and the majority of facts that will be presented below were already known earlier. We will just try to compare these facts against themselves to answer the main questions that arise in connection with the tragedy of May 2nd.
Part 1. Preparation
Were the events of May 2nd an accident or were they planned in advance?
It isn’t necessary to speak about a certain unified plan of the May massacre in Odessa in the form in which it occurred. However, the fact that the disorder on this day was planned in advance is an authentically established fact.
In particular, at least one week prior it was known that on this day activists of Euromaidan, football fanatics, and other forces will stage a forced dispersal of the tent town of Kulikovo field with the support and under the cover of the police.
And although these actions in the plan of the organizers shouldn’t have led to considerable victims among the participants of the events, the fact itself of their preparation and planning is a crime according to the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
Who acted as the initiator of the dispersal of Kulikovo field on May 2nd?
The concrete names and surnames of the initiators, organizers, and performers of the dispersal of the camp planned for May 2nd, 2014, on Kulikovo field must be established via an investigation. However, already today it is possible to affirm that the governor of the Odessa region at that time Vladimir Nemirovsky was aware, on the one hand, about the preparing of events, and on the another — he had to become the main beneficiary.
Why did Nemirovsky need the dispersal of Kulikovo field?
From the middle of April, 2014, Vladimir Nemirovsky’s position as the governor of the Odessa region was extremely unstable. In particular, there was a desire to replace him with his colleague Igor Palitsa, which will finally happen after the events of May 2nd.
The post of the governor was of great importance in anticipation of the presidential elections on May 25th. And if Nemirovsky on the post of the governor represented the interests of his old political “chief” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Igor Palitsa was the business partner of the Dnepropetrovsk oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who at that time supported Petro Poroshenko.
It should be noted that the latter received during elections in the Odessa region 48.4% of votes — whereas the pre-election opinion polls that were carried out by staffs of candidates gave him only between 34 to 39% of votes of the inhabitants of the region. The fact that Poroshenko’s result in elections in the Odessa region was much better than expected, perhaps, can be explained by the fact that on the eve of elections, on the day of voting, and also during the counting of votes of the Odessa region, it was the colleague of Kolomoisky supporting Poroshenko who was in charge. Who knows, maybe the result would be different if the colleague of Yatsenyuk, who at that time tried to keep neutrality between Yulia Tymoshenko and Petro Poroshenko, still remained in the Regional State Administration?
It should be noted that, despite all the efforts of the people trying to replace Nemirovsky with Palitsa, the country’s leaders at the time in the person of Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the acting president Turchynov for obvious reasons were rather skeptical about similar ideas. In order to “knock down” Nemirovsky, there was a need for some weighty proof of his inefficiency in his post. As such proof the opponents of the governor chose the fact of the existence in Odessa of the tent town on Kulikovo field.
In April, 2014, Vladimir Nemirovsky was exposed to massive informational attacks. Odessa’s “euromaidan protesters” repeatedly accused Nemirovsky of not showing the needed determination in the elimination of the “separatism hotbed” on Kulikovo field. It is noteworthy that many “hawks” of Odessa Euromaidan, especially active in their attacks towards Nemirovsky (Alena Balaba, Mark Gordienko, to a lesser extent — “Right Sector”), later closely cooperated with Igor Palitsa in the governor’s post. The rumour that this cooperation began a long time before the enthronement of Palitsa in the Odessa region isn’t lacking a foundation. In particular, the active role in the development of this cooperation, according to the available information, was played by the Odessa political strategist Zoya Kazanzhi who later was (in fact) one of the Deputies of Palitsa in the governor’s post.
Vladimir Nemirovsky understood that Kulikovo field is the main threat to him being the governor, a post that he, by his own words, wanted to keep in the run-up to the 2014 presidential elections. However, Nemirovsky’s possibilities in this plan were quite limited — including and thanks to the continuous conflicts with the head of the Odessa police Petro Lutsyuk.
Nemirovsky tried to solve the problem of Kulikovo field also the “diplomatic” way. Thus, at the end of April he managed to convince a part of the activists to transfer the tent camp from downtown to the district of the memorial of the 411th battery. “Odessa’s druzhina” – one of the two most influential and numerous factions of Kulikovo field – was in concurrence. Inspired by the reached agreement, Nemirovsky publicly stated that Kulikovo field will be cleared of the tents of “Kulikovo members” by May 9th, 2014. However, “People’s druzhina”, which after Anton Davidchenko’s arrest was led by his brother Artyom, refused to join the agreement, and stated that it will remain on Kulikovo field.
If Nemirovsky couldn’t publicly keep his promise about the clearing of Kulikovo field by May 9th, it would put him in an extremely difficult situation, which his opponents by all means would use. In this situation the only way for Nemirovsky to not lose face became the forced dispersal of the tent town on Kulikovo field — according to the so-called “Nikolaev scenario”.
What is the “Nikolaev scenario”?
It consists of a certain sequence of joint actions between activists of Euromaidan and law enforcement officers on the quelling of Antimaidan movements in various cities of Ukraine. The scenario is called Nikolaev because it is precisely in this city that it was for the first time realized in the night of April 8th, 2014.
[Video title: “Dispersal of separatists in Nikolaev”]
The essence of the scenario is as follows. At the first stage the Antimaidan forces divide, and the most efficient part of the activists leaves the tent camp for the implementation of certain actions beyond its limits — in the case of Nikolaev it was an attempt to storm the Nikolaev Regional State Administration, in which about 500 Nikolaev “anti-Maidan protesters” took part. Then the “Expeditionary force” is blocked by forces of law enforcement bodies, then activists of Euromaidan dismantle the “base” of “anti-Maidan protesters”. Law enforcement authorities don’t interfere in the actions of thugs, stopping the attempts of an armed resistance by “anti-Maidan protesters” and eliminating separate excesses in the actions of “euromaidan protesters”, risking heavy injuries or the deaths of people.
After Nikolaev this scenario in one way or another was repeated in Zaporozhye, Kharkov, and other cities of Ukraine.
[Video title: “The surrounded ‘anti-Maidan protesters’ in Zaporozhye”]
There are rather essential signs that the “Nikolaev scenario” was planned for realization in Odessa too. Thus, the march of a group of activists of Kulikovo field headed by Sergey Dolzhenkov in the center of Odessa conforms to this logic. Most likely, after police officers would block this group in the center of Odessa, activists of Euromaidan (in particular, “Self-defense of Odessa”), and also football fanatics would have to go to Kulikovo field, and to carry out the dismantlement of the tent town in the framework of the scenario and without a considerable loss of human life.
I.e. the idea itself of this march was a provocation, and Dolzhenkov is a traitor?
This opinion is very widespread among activists of Kulikovo field, including among Dolzhenkov’s colleagues on “Odessa’s druzhina”. So, the head of the organization Dmitry Odinov, who was absent in Odessa during the first half of May 2nd, later affirmed: he repeatedly ordered Dolzhenkov not to take any active actions in the center of Odessa. However Dolzhenkov, according to Odinov and other eyewitnesses, refused to execute this instruction, stating that, I quote, “my time came”.
Also, among “Kulikovo members” it is rumored that during detention a considerable sum of the money was found, allegedly received by Dolzhenkov for “treachery”. However, there is no objective confirmation of this rumour, and sources in law enforcement agencies refute this information.
The conscious treachery of Dolzhenkov is not the only possible option. It should be noted that ideas about a march in the center of Odessa on May 2 were repeatedly expressed by various participants of Kulikovo field, and found broad support among masses of “Kulikovo members”, which at that moment were fairly tired of the inaction and indecision of leaders.
It isn’t excluded that Dolzhenkov acted in this way like how he repeatedly did also before: He decided to lead what he couldn’t prevent, and then to try to steer everything in a controlled course, and to avoid excesses. It is precisely according to this scenario, for example, that the events of April 13th, when Dolzhenkov and the activists of “Odessa druzhina” subordinated to him actually prevented the attempt of a spontaneous storming of the SBU building in Odessa by “Kulikovo members”.
[Video title: “Picket of SBU building”]
To understand what role Dolzhenkov played in events on May 2, 2014 (and what was planned to play), the explanation of Dolzhenkov himself would help. However, currently he is in the Odessa pre-trial detention center as someone accused in the case of May 2nd. For obvious reasons he prefers to abstain from any explanation in this respect.
Why didn’t the “Nikolaev scenario” work, and for whom was it beneficial?
If we accept the hypothesis that in Odessa on May 2nd, the realisation of the “Nikolaev scenario” was planned, which didn’t assume a loss of human life and considerable destruction, immediately a question arises: why did everything turn out a completely different way? And more precisely, was this plan unsuccessful because of a confluence of incidental circumstances, or was it consciously disrupted by certain third parties?
As a whole the scenario was disrupted nearly from the very beginning: law enforcement authorities didn’t manage to block the “Expeditionary force” of “Kulikovo members”. For this purpose there banally wasn’t enough forces: for unclear reasons the leadership of the Odessa police didn’t enact the operating plan “Wave”.
In addition, even the available forces were distributed very strangely. For example, downtown (on Aleksandrovsky avenue and Sobornaya square) in total there were about 200 police officers. The main forces of policemen (about 700 people) were placed near the Chernomorets stadium and physically couldn’t take part in events at the initial stage. However, even if we assume that the leadership of law enforcement agencies incorrectly estimated the situation and incorrectly disposed of the available forces initially, what prevented the later maneuvering of forces? From Chernomorets stadium to Grecheskaya Square is half an hour of slow-paced walking. Fights in the center of Odessa lasted more than two hours. However, no transfer of forces happened.
Whether all of the above was a consequence of the banal negligence and non-professionalism of the leadership of the Odessa police, or they acted according to their own plan, different from Nemirovsky’s plan? It is difficult to say. It should be noted once again that the Interior Minister in the Odessa region Petro Lutsyuk was in a state of permanent conflict with Vladimir Nemirovsky. Nemirovsky himself both then and later repeatedly affirmed that the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs wasn’t subordinate to him, didn’t listen to him, and obviously played their own certain game.
Thus, it is simple to understand who exactly the disruption of the “Nikolaev scenario” in Odessa was favorable for. If Nemirovsky (or some of his certain benefactors) managed to eliminate the tent town on Kulikovo field without the victims and destruction, it would considerably strengthen Nemirovsky’s position in the governor’s chair, and would prevent the plans of those who wanted to see Igor Palitsa in his place. On the other hand, it is precisely the tragedy on May 2nd that led to Nemirovsky’s falling and the enthronement of Palitsa. The fact that everything happened how it happened, finally played into the hands of Igor Kolomoysky and Petro Poroshenko.
However, this accusation is too serious to put forward only on the basis of simple logic “to whom does it benefit?” At the moment it has the right to exist only as a version of events — hypothesis needing further verification by the facts.
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