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Was it a massacre that occured in Odessa May 2, 2014?

Was it a massacre that occured in Odessa may 2, 2014?

Translation from Swedish based on a background text about Odessa 2 may 2014 - Published by Synapze:

Was it a massacre that occured in Odessa when the trade union building was set on fire?


"It is a massacre when a lot of people are murdered at the same time"



The planned display of the documentary "Ukraine - The masks of the revolution" (In Swedish: Ukraina - Revolutionens mörka sida) before the second anniversary May 2, 2016 makes the question of what happened in Odessa relevant again. The central question is if what happened when the trade union building was set on fire was a massacre or not. It requires a critical evaluation of sources regarding the arguments brought forward.

The definition of a massacre is simple; it is intentional mass murder. The number of fatalities is not essential. Even massacres with less than half as many fatalities as in Odessa counts as a massacre.

There is agreement that many people were killed due to the fire in Odessa. The official report says there was 42 fatalities. A UN-report about Odessa May, 2 2014 also confirms agreement that the only victims at the trade union house were on the side called "pro-federalist". These commonly accepted facts tells us that at this occasion many people were killed at the same time and place. Everyone also agree that what happened at the trade union building was an attack from the "pro unity oriented side".

Yet those who seek to talk about the Odessa massacre are accused in harsh words to be lying and to act as tools for what some call Russian propaganda. Critics in Sweden has previously managed to get ABF in Malmö and Helsingborg to cancel an exhibition about the Odessa massacre due to hard outside pressure. Before the Swedish premiere of the documentary "Ukraine - The masks of the revolution" a number of individuals again voiced their opinion against those that gives a different picture of the events in Ukraine than the one advocated by voices who have a similar view as the Swedish government. In the documentary the Odessa massacre is an important element. This makes the question of what happened in Odessa a current issue.

What is it then, that indicates that there were a massacre? And what is it that critics brings forward that wants to prevent exhibitions about the Odessa massacre and those who think that claims that a massacre took place is false propaganda in Russia´s favor?

A number of diverse arguments are put forward:


Street disturbances

Pro: Street violence separated in time and space.

What suggests that it was a massacre is that the street disturbances that preceded the incident took place separated in space and time from the attack at the trade union house

In those street disturbances two from the "pro unity side" were killed and thereafter four persons from the "pro federalist side" were killed. These street disturbances in which both sides are chasing each other is something different from when one side with the larger crowd seeks out an opponent one kilometer from where the street disturbances took place and then starts an arson leading to 42 casualties..


Contra: The street disturbances is an excuse making the fire an unintended consequence and not a massacre.

It is claimed that what talks against that the event was a massacre is that the first casualties was "pro unity demonstrators" The attack that happened later in another part of the city is according to this point of view more than an explanation for the attack on the trade union building. It means that no massacre occured because the fire was part in an ongoing battle in which the side that is claimed to have started the conflict can not be seen as victims of how the battle ends.


The attack on the tent camp and the fire in the union building.

Pro: It was already May 2, 2014 clear that what happened at Kulikovo field at the Trade Union House was that a larger crowd attacked a tent camp with a smaller group of people..The attack led to that the tent camp was set on fire, while those who had been in the tent camp took refuge in the trade union house. Shortly thereafter, the building was also on fire whereupon the many fatalities occured. The course of events was shown on a video from a long distance. Here one could see how the Kulikovo field with the tent camp was quiet before the crowd attacked and soon the main entrance was in full flame. Several Molotov cocktails were thrown by the attackers towards the entrance and through the windows in the building. Also those who sought refuge in the building threw a few Molotov cocktails to defend themselves . That a smaller group of people which is being attacked tries to defend themselves is protected by the right of self-defence. That a larger crowd throws Molotov cocktails towards the building to start a fire is a conscious act that means that it is arson and a massacre.

Contra: The same video that shows how the crowd is attacking the camp and the Trade Union building with Molotov cocktails are interpreted by the critics in the opposite way. The video was published by Euromaidan PR (now euromaidanpress) directly in connection with the incident. The argument that was used, was that the imprisoned started the fire themselves. A shimmering firelight was seen in a window higher up. Those who sought refuge in the building had, according to this view, themselves to blame when they started the fire in this way. It is therefore no massacre. The continuation of the video showed that the fire took off in the stairwell after that Molotov cocktails were thrown towards the entrance.

Today all claims that the fire started anywhere else then at the main entrance are withdrawn. What remains is the claim that those inside the building also were throwing molotovcocktiails against the attackers and thus somehow could be the cause of the fire.

In the detailed written report from May 2 Group it is stated: "Pro-Ukrainian activists are throwing bottles at steps of the entrance, in the lobby and into the windows of the building" These actions are deliberate and not excusable by the claims that those who defend themselves provokes the attackers. That The fire starts just where the attackers throw their molotovocoktails is clear in May 2 group´s video of the incident. The claims being made that this fire may have been caused by the defenders throwing a Molotov cocktail a meter or so on a barricade right infront of the entrance while the many Molotov cocktails thrown by the attackers directly towards this place would not have caused the fire is unreasonable. It does not detract from the fact that the decisive action to cause the confrontation was the violent attack. This attack with Molotov cocktails against the trapped people inside the building was intentional and therefore is a mass murder.


Side arguments

Many side arguments have been made also. The most qualified by "May 2 group", an independent local initiative that looked at the incident with the help of many videos and experts.

They presented a first report in August 2014. Halya Coynash from the Kharkiv´s group for the defence of human rights, argues based on that report, that the image of the Odessa massacre is false.

What is false is according to Coynash are four things.

1.No massacre as pro federalists did not flee spontanously and the tent camp may have been put on fire by molotov coktails thrown from the roof

Contra that it was a massacre::

The claim is made that there was "no spontanity" when the pro federalists moved into the trade union house. Coynash is referring to May 2 group´s information about that some among the pro federalists had been preparing to barricade themselves in the building and some sought to put up barricades to protect the tent camp when the attack started. To use the argument that no massacre took place because some of those attacked had prepared protection and therefore in a way should not be seen as victims of a mass murder is not a morally defendable argumentation

Another reason that it was no massacre is covered by May 2 group´s statement from 2014, that some leaders on the pro federalisation side tried to gather people from several directions into the building resulting in 400 persons inside the house instead of 50. If that is true, it does not diminish the severity of the attack on those trapped in the building.

Furthermore, "May 2 group" states that the crowd that was attacking the Kulikovo field was met by "gunfire, torches and molotov cocktails" from the trade union building and continues "pro unity activists did not know that there were others, unarmed persons in the building and answered the attacks against them with their own aggressive actions. At first, it led to that the barricades at the entrance caught fire and later that the fire spread to the interior of the building." The eventuality of molotov coktails thrown from the roof could have set fire to a tent is even used as an argument that the claim that "profederalists fled into a trade union building from an agitated crowd of pro unity radicals who burned down their tents." is false.

The roles are switched. Those who are defending themselves are blamed for causing the events and are to be blamed for that the crowd sets the building on fire An act that the crowd hardly could be blamed for. They could not have known that there were a lot of innocent people inside the building. They responded to what those inside the building had done to the crowd which is described as the lesser proactive part

Contrary to say that the view that it was a massacre is wrong, The report from May 2 group and the documentary by Paul Moreira says that it was a massacre caused by the attacking crowd. It is the aggressive acts from that crowd that starts a fire at the entrance and not a failed attempt of self defence


2. Trade Union building was deliberately set on fire.

Pro That it was a massacre caused by deliberate actions.

The May 2 Group states that the crowd attacked the Kulikovfield. It led to aggressive actions from their side so that the "barricades at the entrance catches fire and then spreads inside the Trade Union building". It is immoral that a member from a human rights organization argues that this means that those who threw Molotov cocktails from the crowd did not act deliberately. When a large crowd attacks and throws Molotov cocktails at a building with trapped people inside, this is a deliberate action no matter if it is planned or justified because of claimed provocations from the trapped people inside the building.



The question of which action leading to the fire is the essence of the cause of many fatalities. It is hard to understand what Halya Coynash mean when she says that the building was not deliberately set on fire. She may have meant that the attack was not planned in advance. It is something that is not addressed in the May 2 group report. Coynash is not presenting any real reason why she think that the building was not deliberatly set on fire.


3. People were murdered by "radicals" inside the building or if they managed to escape from it.


Coynash puts forward that May 2 group does not show that any pro unity activist inside the building killed anyone or when the trapped inside the building tried to escape.

Pro That it was a amassacre

The crucial thing for calling an event a massacre or not is that many are killed at the same time by arson or by other means. In what way people are killed does not take away the fact that it is a massacre

Regarding what happened when right-wing extremists pushed their way into the building and for those who jumped from a great height onto the ground the report from the May 2 group say that the "euromaidan activists and ultras" (soccer fans) that came into the union building (from the left gable entrance), with the help of stun guns and pneumatic weapons among other things made it impossible for the pro federalist activists to use the left gable to evacuate the building and gathered in the central and the right part of the house. The central exit was blocked by flames". Furthermore, they share the view of UNHCR that some pro-Ukrainian activists tried to take the law into their own hands and beat those injured in the fire but also that others tried to save people from the burning building and tried to stop the violence. The statements from May 2 group rather strengthens the picture of a massacre than diminish it. The fact that some in the crowd tries to rescue the trapped in the building does not deprive that others at the same time pushes their way into the building in an aggressive way or beats those who have fallen to the ground. It is still a massacre even if not every person in the crowd acted in the same way.


4. By not saying that the fire department arrived late to the scene it conveys a false narrative of that a massacre did occur.

Pro: That the fire department arrived late does not absolve any responsibility from those who attacked the building.

Contra: It was no massacre because the problem was that the fire department arrived late.

May 2 group shows that the fire brigade and police action lingered. How these are facts to suggest that what happened was not a massacre is difficult to comprehend when the fire developed very fast in the stairwell and became fatal very quickly.




The documentary at SVT - Sveriges Television AB (In Swedish):…/ukraina-revolutionens-morka-sida

Trailer of the documentary at SVT - Sveriges Television AB Play (In Swedish):…/74…/ukraina-revolutionens-morka-sida

The documentary including a trailer of the documentary at the European distributor JAVA Films (In English):

The documentary with English subtitles:


Open letter from the Ukrainian organizations aiming to prevent the exhibition about the Odessa massacre (In Swedish):

Criticism of the pressure against the ABF and the municipality(In Swedish):


May 2 group´s written report about the fire (In English):…/the-chronology-of-events-tha…

About the street violence prior to the fire (In English):…/chronology-of-events-may-2-2…

May 2 group's video (In English):…/odesa-may-2-watch-on-ukraine-today-4245…

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