Five years after Odessa massacre, anti-fascists demand justice

A banner with photos of the massacre victims was displayed at the memorial in Odessa on May 2, 2019.

Washington, D.C. — On May 2, five years after the massacre of 48 anti-fascists at the House of Trade Unions in Odessa, Ukraine, Struggle-La Lucha activists joined the Odessa Solidarity Campaign (OSC) for a vigil outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

In 2014, shortly after a U.S.-backed coup overthrew the government of Ukraine, neo-Nazis were bused into the city of Odessa. They attacked a protest encampment on Kulikovo Field. When anti-fascists sought refuge in the nearby trade union building, the fascists set fire to the structure, shooting and beating to death those who tried to escape the inferno.

Many videos and photographs document the massacre and identify those responsible. But none of the perpetrators have been punished.

Vigil at Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C. SLL photo by Greg Butterfield

In Washington, OSC coordinator Phil Wilayto handed a letter to the embassy staff addressed to Ukraine’s president-elect, Vladimir Zelensky, calling for a real investigation into the massacre.

It said in part: “We appeal to you to break with the practices of your predecessor and allow an objective investigation by a reputable international body into the events of May 2, 2014, in order to bring those responsible for the deaths and suffering to justice.

“We further appeal to you to take steps to end the ongoing repression of the victims’ relatives and of members of the media attempting to investigate the massacre.”

Afterward, protesters went to the nearby Bolivarian Venezuelan Embassy to support the ongoing anti-fascist campaign of the Embassy Protection Collective, which is defending the embassy from takeover by the U.S. government and ultraright supporters of Juan Guaidó.

Significantly, in Odessa itself, thousands of people came to a memorial event organized by victims’ families. They laid flowers at the House of Trade Unions and released black balloons representing those who had died. A delegation of U.S. antiwar activists from the United National Antiwar Coalition attended the memorial.

A fascist counter mobilization in the city drew fewer people and was unable to disrupt the commemoration.

Events honoring the fallen activists were held in many cities, including Budapest, London, Moscow, Prague, Vancouver and Vienna. In the Donetsk People’s Republic, which has been subject to five years of war by Ukraine with Washington’s support, anti-fascists marked the anniversary with a vigil at Lenin Square, where a permanent memorial to the Odessa martyrs has been erected. They issued a call to organize an international movement against the modern resurgence of fascism — one that clearly identifies capitalism as the source of the problem.

Big business media have long kept silent about the Odessa massacre and the persecution of family and survivors. So it was noteworthy that the Associated Press reported May 2 on the findings of the United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine that “authorities have not done what it takes to ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions.”

Alexey Albu, a coordinator of the banned Ukrainian Marxist organization Borotba (Struggle) and survivor of the Odessa massacre, told SLL: “Give thanks to all the participants of the action and all good people who could not come, but who understand the threat of neofascism.

“We have a saying: a drop wears away a stone. This means that as long as we do not stop our struggle, we will eventually break the back of Ukrainian neofascism!”