Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Nearly 5 years ago, on November 21st, 2013, Euromaidan started in Kiev, which resulted in a coup d’etat 3 months later. The tragedy on Kulikovo Field in Odessa on May 2nd, 2014, when militants from Kiev beat to death some dozens of Odessa residents who didn’t support the coup in the capital, became one of consequences of those events.
We continue the publication of the memoirs of Oleg Muzyka, who was one of the participants of those events. In these articles we continue the story about the 5th anniversary of Euromaidan and its consequences.
How did events on the morning of May 2nd develop?
“The first train with Kharkov football fans onboard arrived at around 09:15 in Odessa for a match with ‘Chernomorets’, and they immediately moved from the railway station to Kulikovo Field, but they came across buses with battalions of special purpose security forces (former “Berkut“) inside. The latter pushed the former aside, and the fans went to the city center.
I was on Kulikovo Field at this time. And at about 10:00 in the middle of the field, the access to which had been completely closed off by police posts, I saw a Volkswagen Touareg jeep with tinted glass and a Kiev numberplate. I approached this car, it darted off and left, and when it passed by the police at the post, who saluted them. I.e., some officers – from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the SBU – were in this car. An hour later I saw already two cars on Kulikovo Field – a Skoda Octavia and a Lexus jeep, one of them had a Odessa numberplate, and the other had a Kiev plate. I also approached them, they darted off and left through the posts, where the police also saluted them.
This is besides the fact that earlier in the morning the employees of the Odessa police headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Anatoly Madey, in my presence, together with our vigilantes, checked all tents in our camp for the existence of weapons and armed people, and reported that they found nothing.
Then I noticed that on the roof of the glass building, as we called the second corps of the regional council, there were some people. Apparently, they had switched-off the camera that constantly films everything that happens on Kulikovo Field, and, probably, installed their own cameras for recording. Firstly, they were too numerous for the purpose to be a simple shutdown of a camera (four-five people). Secondly, now when I watch the footage of the event on May 2nd, I see that the events on Kulikovo Field were filmed not by the camera that usually films everything for online broadcasting on the Internet, as is the case in our city on Dumskaya Street, etc.
Later, on Kulikovo Field, a concert had started and people gathered, and at about 13:00 information started to arrive about there being some movement in the city center (at this time, on Aleksandrovsky avenue near Sobornaya Square, where the football fans had gathered, there was a gathering of members of ‘Odessa Druzhina’ and its sympathisers). People started to flock to the scene, shouting ‘Let’s go forward to the center, we need to help them!’ I yanked the microphone from them and said that we aren’t going anywhere and that we have no forces and means that would make it possible to stop the march in which 3,000-5,000 young strong guys and hundreds of ‘Maidan self-defense forces’ participate. After all, we didn’t prepare for any clashes and didn’t declare in advance the mobilisation of our supporters.
I held people back up to 16:00-16:30 on Kulikovo Field, urging them not to go anywhere. But some of the audience that came to the concert all the same left in small groups for the city center, listening to the crowd shout ‘ours are being beaten up’ and watching an online broadcast of events that was being shown on all city TV channels live. People were simply incited!
At about 17:00 I brought together about 20 people from among the vigilantes [anti-Maidan – ed] protecting Kulikovo Field, and we went on Pushkinskaya Street towards Grecheskaya Square to see what is going on in the center. And when we reached Grecheskaya, we saw what was happening there.”
And what did you see?
“Fierce gunfire. Within several minutes three policemen with gunshot wounds were taken to safety, passing by me. One Lieutenant-Colonel lay near the ‘Antoshka’ shop – he was in a bad way, he shouted from pain, he had a wound under his bullet-proof vest, probably from a buckshot. The deputy chief of the main directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Odessa region, the chief of police concerning public safety Dmitry Fuchedzhi passed by me, holding his shot hand. 10-15 special troops of the SBU ‘Alpha’ ran in and around us, completely in black, with little shields and machine guns. They didn’t do anything, despite the stones flying to our and their side, as if they were protecting someone.
I will note that Maidan protesters ‘worked’ very professionally: they built ‘pyramids’ from shields, which completely closed them ranks, and here or there a shield slid to the side, and then a fighter quickly aimed and fired a shot, after which the ‘window’ was again closed.
There we held on until 18:00, maybe 20:00, on that day I in general lost track of time. Then we jumped out of this hell and ran to Kulikovo Field. The women, teenagers, and elderly persons who remained there – there were no adult men there – were building barricades from improvised materials, but what were they? It’s height was just half a meter.
Then we retreated towards the House of Trade Unions and transferred barricades to its entrance. I want to explain – later many said that we were enticed there, especially led inside, etc. But this isn’t the case — anyone who want to leave could do so. But at this time it was already seen that nationalists and football fans run in crowds towards our side.
At first we defended ourselves on the stairs on the House of Trade Unions. This defense lasted at best 15-30 minutes, because you throw one stone, and then fifty fly back at you, and in addition – ‘Molotov cocktails’ and explosive packages bound with metal striking elements. Then we entered into the building and barricaded the entrance doors (with refrigerators, tables, with what we could).”
What happened in the House of Trade Unions?
“The attackers entered the building from the yard and smashed the huge windows above the flights of stairs, after which they started throwing into the building everything that they had. I personally saw an army smoke grenade of Soviet production which fell near me, such a cardboard tube 40 centimeters long and 5 centimeters in diameter. Such a grenade makes a loud bang and starts emitting green gas on the basis of sulphur, because of which it is impossible to breathe, it eats your eyes. In addition, because of the dense gas you can’t see anything, even a hand near your face. Panic started, I don’t remember how I arrived at the first floor from the third floor (I thought for a long time that I was on the second floor, but I later understood thanks to photos, having seen us hanging on the window ledge during the fire in the building, I was in a well noticeable orange construction helmet).
Another three persons – a young guy, the activist Aleksander from our All-Ukrainian party ‘Rodina’, and an elderly grandfather – were in the office on the third floor where we took cover from the smoke and fire. The grandfather’s skull was nearly broken when we already hung on the window ledge – it for sure wasn’t because of a stone, it is very difficult to throw a stone to the second floor of a Soviet building. Later we taped his head, and he sat in the corner of a room and groaned.
From the windows it was possible to see that from everyone who went down from the building to the ground, women were simply beaten and men were literally beaten to death. I saw how one guy ran away, he reached the middle of Kulikovo Field, 30 people caught up with him, he was tackled, they jumped on him, then abandoned and left him — only some lumps were left from him.
At this time we started calling our relatives and friends to say goodbye. In turn, my acquaintances told me that they were calling the fire brigade, which was 500 meters from the House of Trade Unions, and that they refused to come to the fire. Then firefighters arrived later, one in a helmet walked upstairs to our window, and asked: ‘Are you going to leave?’ I answered ‘No’. He didn’t even insist, because he saw for himself that the men leaving the building were simply beaten to death.
We waited in an office for the fire and smoke in the building to stop. It was already late at night — 22:00 or 00:00. As I already said, on that day I lost track of time. At some point someone knocked on our door, and we prepared to fend them off, but it turned out that it was a firefighter. We gave him the wounded grandfather, and stayed put.”
And what happened after?
“At this time the noise and shouting were audible throughout the building. Some bangs were audible, but it is difficult to precisely say if was gunfire – after the events of this day my ears were ringing. I noticed that people were standing on the street who shone lasers at the windows, and I thought that there was coordination – fighting groups were ordered to carry out cleansing, and from the street information was conveyed about what offices they should enter. We laid down on the floor and tried not to let any passers-by catch sight of us.
When the smoke became thinner, I suggested to my friends to leave. We dispersed one at a time – what happened to the first guy, I don’t know. Aleksandr from ‘Rodina’ managed to jump out of the building, he survived, but he still has serious gas poisoning to this day. And I remained in the building and went on different floors to look for my brother, who ran into the building before the storm — I firstly went to the lower floors, then to the upper floors, and I reached the very top.
I saw tens of corpses, I turned them over, I looked at their faces, I shone a phone light — I was looking for my brother (I didn’t find him – as it turned out, in the afternoon he had jumped out from the second floor and at this time was already in hospital). I faced on the way a group of ‘Right Sector’ members. Since I had graduated from a Ukrainian school I spoke Ukrainian, and to the question ‘Who are you, guy?’ I answered: ‘Sviy’ [Ukrainian for “ours” – ed]. So we went our separate ways. Along the way I heard them make remarks: ‘So, we finished our work. Now those who collect documents will come’. I.e., there were groups that were strictly engaged in their assigned work – some were engaged in murders and cleansing rooms, others collected documents and phones from the deceased, etc.
When I was already descending the staircase, the light was suddenly turned on, and it turned out that behind me – my face was black from soot and ashes, and my head was bandaged with a t-shirt – there were five ‘Right Sector’ members. Fortunately the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (majors, colonels) were walking towards us, and I was detained (what is characteristic is that they didn’t detain ‘Right Sector’ members) and started to escort me to the ground floor. Probably, this is only thing that saved me from death.
While we were walking, I observed how in the building the office rooms located in the leased areas were being destroyed, and how office equipment and everything that can be sold for profit was being taken away. On one of the stair wells a ‘Right Sector’ member was sat near the lying corpses, he took a box of sweets stolen from somewhere and ate them, washing them down with a bottle of champagne. This caused amazement even among the nationalists who were walking behind me, who asked him: ‘Are you in general a normal person?’. He answered: ‘I’m having a rest, and?’.
While exiting the building we came across two employees of the SBU. They also allowed ‘Right Sector’ members to pass — they turned their collars inside out and showed them something. And we, those who survived, were [led] through the ranks to the police van and [sent] to the city police station.”
This is already a separate chapter of events on May 2nd. What happened in the police department, who did you see there?
“In the department all of us were brought one at a time to the fourth floor and recorded on video. Detention protocols, in which it was necessary to specify only personal data, had already been prepared. Then, when I was again taken down to the ground floor, I saw how many detainees from the House of Trade Unions were there — women, children (for example, a 13-year-old girl who was with her parents), how many beaten up people there were — all the teeth of one guy had been beaten out (probably by a bat), only stubs remained. People started approaching me, and I explained to them that article 163 of the Constitution grants the right to not testify against yourself.
And here the door opened, Lieutenant-Colonel Anatoly Madey, who in the morning verified the camp on Kulikovo Field, came into the corridor, addressed me respectfully, and invited me into the office of the chief of the city police. I entered and saw that the police leadership was gathered here along with the same two SBU members who in my presence allowed ‘Right Sector’ members to exit the House of Trade Unions. Madey pointed to them and said: ‘Here are two senior persons from Kiev who want to talk to you’.
Our conversation wasn’t long. At first I was asked how many mobile phones I had bought with money that had been given to me, to which I answered: ‘Show me at least one person in Odessa who will say that they gave me money or visa-versa’. Well, they said that there are no pretensions to me. They asked some more formal questions: where I come from, when did I move to Odessa. And after this they asked: why did you guys encamp on Kulikovo Field. I answered: this is well-known – for a federal structure, for a customs union, for Russian as the second state language… When I mentioned Russian as the second state language one of the SBU employees jumped up from the table and shouted ‘You break our balls with the Russian language!’ Even though he had a conversation with me in Russian.
I had nothing to lose, on that day I saw tens of dead people, I don’t even know what happened to my relatives, so I answered: ‘If a mention of the Russian language makes you jump up from your chair so quickly, then what’s the point in speaking with you further?’ And he said to the people around him: ‘Well, make sure I never see him [Oleg Muzyka – ed] again’. I left for the corridor, Madey ran after me, and started explaining to me that supposedly I misunderstood – ‘we wanted to help you’, he said, to which I answered, ‘It’s not me who you should help, but the people. Start taking them to the toilet, and call for medical care’. The policemen nevertheless met our demands — they called for an ambulance, and it took away those who were wounded the most and were simply incapacitated.
And at 04:00, when the last people from the House of Trade Unions had been brought to the police department, I was just led into a cell. I was being led, and I saw that they had entered the building. And I asked them: ‘Where were you’? They told me: ‘we are from the roof’.
When I undressed before being sent into the cell, I saw how my day had ended: a huge haematoma on my chest, and a leg wound from a steel ball fired by a traumatic pistol on Grecheskaya Street. I saw the person shooting at me from the ranks of Maidan protesters with a weapon similar to a Makarov gun, and it’s only because I quickly retreated from the line of fire that I received a wound only on my leg.
Together with me in the cell there was an inhabitant of Odessa – Tolya, 1941 year of birth, who I knew from Kulikovo Field. He was born when his father defended Odessa from the Germans. And he was accused under the same articles as I: part 2 of article 294 (mass riots that caused the death of people or any other grave consequences) and part 1 of article 115 (premeditated murder).
On the afternoon of May 3rd Tolya was summoned to the investigator, and, having returned, he said that he had signed a protocol concerning the choice of a measure of restraint. And suddenly at 00:00, after lights out (probably in order to snatch me in my most psychologically weakened state), I was awoken and brought to the investigator. He pushed forward a piece of paper to sign about the choice of a measure of restraint. I started to read it and saw that it contained stories about where I allegedly was on May 2nd, who I opened fire at, who I killed, etc. At the bottom a profile of me was written: ‘Activist, organising abilities, aggressive, inclined to violence’. I ask the investigator: ‘you decided to earn another epaulette, by jailing me?’ And I refused to sign it.
In the night of May 4th one more detainee was thrown into our two-man cell. It turned out that it was the sailor of a ship. He, having seen what was happening on May 2th, refused to board and rushed to help people. According to him, all the cells in the police department were crammed, and the inhabitants of Odessa besieged the police department, and that’s why he was thrown into our cell.
In the afternoon of May 4th we were again brought to the investigator, already in a whole group. He again demanded to sign at least some documents. We again refused, someone wrote in the protocol: ‘I don’t agree’.
When I was brought out of the investigator’s office, the door of the next office opened, and a person in plain clothes stood there and said to the person accompanying me: ‘May we speak with Muzyka?’ I was interested it what they wanted. I entered the office, there were two persons inside, the warrant officer remained near the open door. It turned out that they were SBU employees, but this time from Odessa, and not Kiev. They asked me two questions: what can I say about the basements in the House of Trade Unions (I was surprised by this question) and in my opinion how many people died? I said: ‘I, of course, can only assume, but if we were about 450-500 people who entered into the building, and if approximately 200 people are now in hospitals, and 60-70 are sat here, and about 50 people managed to jump out of the building and disappear, then it turns out that more than 100 people died’. In response to this the SBU employee simply answered: ‘Well, you can go’. Probably such a figure concerning the number of dead wasn’t unexpected for them.”
And how in the end did you become a free person?
“After we were returned to our cells, after some time we heard that those who had gathered around the building were already breaking down the gate. And from all the cells people start shouting: ‘Odessa is a hero city!’ Not ‘save us, help us’, but the whole prison chanted in unison: ‘Odessa is a hero city!’ and started beating the doors of the cells. A siren was sound in the department.
Due to nerves I pulled the screwed-down stool out of the concrete floor of the cell, we broke it, I started beating the steel-covered door and we incidentally hit one of the rivets (the internal covering was not welded, but on a rivet), and it flew away. We continued to hit the rivets and completely tore away all the internal steel covering of the door. We were already preparing to pull up the bed and strike the external covering of the door, but at this time the siren abated, and the policemen declared that now everyone will be released from prison.
And we, 67 detainees, left. There was thin drizzle. According to different data, from 3,000 to 5,000 people gathered near the building. And all of them shout to us: ‘Heroes!’
I spoke, at first I nervously declared that we will now go to the city administration, and then I looked at the audience and I saw that they are ordinary people, without weapons, without anything. And at this time my acquaintances from Kulikovo Field approached me and said that armed ‘Right Sector’ members are already quickly gathering at the monument to the Duke (on Potemkinskaya Square at the monument to Duke of Richelieu). And there is a need to either go somewhere or to disperse people. Otherwise there will be more blood than there was on May 2nd.
I went to the platform in front of the people and asked them to go home. People started leaving. I left when no more than 200 people and very few Kulikovo Field activists remained near the building, and around me SBU members were already doing circles, and it was clear that I might find myself behind bars again.
What conclusion can be drawn from these events? All people, as banal as it may sound, want to live. At the height of our meetings on Kulikovo Field once I said from the scene that if D-Day comes I will be glad if there is at least 1,000 people from those 20,000 that stand in front of the scene now. I was mistaken — it turned out that there was about 500 people. Going to rallies is one thing, but to expose yourself to a hail of stones and to bludgeons and bullets is another thing.
I stayed in Odessa until May 21st, 2014, having changed my residence, I communicated with ordinary people and with journalists, and then left at first for Russia, and then for Europe.”
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