New York event honors anti-fascists killed in Odessa, Ukraine

SLL photo: Greg Butterfield

Several activists gathered in New York’s Union Square this May 2 to pay tribute to more than 40 anti-fascists killed in the multinational port city of Odessa, Ukraine, seven years earlier. The event was called by Solidarity with Novorossiya and Antifascists in Ukraine.

The Odessa massacre of May 2, 2014, was carried out by neo-Nazis and far-right nationalist groups that played a key part in the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev earlier that year. The new heads of Ukraine — pro-Western oligarchs and politicians, and their backers in Washington — were frightened by the powerful anti-fascist resistance that had emerged in Odessa and other cities of eastern Ukraine.

So on May 2 ultra-right goons were bussed into Odessa from western Ukraine. Progressive protesters were attacked and driven from their encampment on Kulikovo Field into the nearby House of Trade Unions. The fascist mob set the building on fire, then shot, bludgeoned and beat to death people trying to escape the blaze.

Although these acts were caught on numerous videos and photographs, and many of the killers have been identified, none have been prosecuted or punished. Many survivors, however, were jailed or driven out of Ukraine under threat of arrest or death.

The role of the U.S. government in the illegal 2014 coup, the right-wing terror that swept Ukraine, and the subsequent war against the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, is little known in the U.S. Those who gathered in New York to mark the anniversary distributed leaflets and held conversations with passersby to share this important information.

They held signs demanding, “Stop the cover-up,” “No U.S.-Ukraine war on Donbass and Russia,” and “U.S. out of Ukraine.” A small memorial was erected with the names of the murdered activists from Odessa and photos of some of the young people who died. The youngest, Vadim Papura, was just 17.

In Richmond, Va., some 20 people gathered outside the Federal Building to honor the martyrs of Odessa and oppose the U.S.-sponsored war in Donbass, at the call of the Odessa Solidarity Campaign. The New York and Richmond events were among at least 20 held that day in cities across the former Soviet Union, Europe and North America as part of an international day of solidarity.

Following is the statement distributed at the New York event:

Martin Luther King said in 1967: “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home: they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.” His words are still true today.

To expand its military and economic power, the U.S. government supported a violent coup in Ukraine in 2014. Racist neo-Nazi groups led this coup. It was a lot like the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by white supremacist supporters of Donald Trump.

Ukraine began a war against the residents of the Donbass region which has killed 14,000 people in seven years. Armed neo-Nazi battalions are involved. Fascists invaded the Ukrainian city of Odessa and massacred over 40 anti-fascists and trade unionists on May 2, 2014.

Violent white supremacists here in the U.S. have received training from Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups. That includes fascists who participated in the 2017 Charlottesville KKK riot where anti-racist Heather Heyer was killed.

Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress supported the coup in Ukraine. Joe Biden was Washington’s point person on Ukraine as vice president. Trump began direct arms sales to the Ukrainian fascists. Today Biden continues U.S. military, economic and political support. Why? U.S. support for Ukraine’s attacks on civilians in Donbass threatens to ignite a war with Russia.

More U.S. wars are not in the interests of poor and working people here. Not only are billions of dollars wasted that could be used to house the homeless, provide free quality healthcare, safe jobs and schools for all. The growing military budget fuels militarization of the police. War propaganda encourages police brutality and violent racist attacks.

Young people and elders are the first victims of U.S. wars both at home and abroad. The U.S. war on children must end!