Friday, May 2, 2014

Ukraine: US condemns Odessa violence as dozens die

A protester walks past a burning tent camp and a fire in the trade union building in Odessa - 2 May 2014 The Trade Unions building in Odessa was engulfed with flames after rival groups exchanged petrol bombs
The United States has condemned the "senseless" violence that left at least 31 people dead in the south-west of Ukraine on Friday.

Dozens of people were killed by a fire at a building that pro-Russians had taken over in the port city of Odessa.

A blaze engulfed the building after running battles between pro-Kiev groups and separatists in the city.

Officials said some people were overwhelmed by smoke and others died after they jumped from the building.
Footage shows people trying to escape from the building in Odessa

The US said the violence was "unacceptable" and urged all sides to work together to restore law and order in light of the "tragedy."

"The violence and mayhem that led to so many senseless deaths and injuries is unacceptable," the state department said in a statement.

It also called on the Ukrainian authorities "to bring all those responsible to justice."
Investigation underway
Ukraine's interior ministry said the fire broke out in Odessa's Trade Unions House but it did not give details of how the blaze started.

The exact sequence of events is still unclear, but reports suggest the separatists had barricaded themselves inside the building and both sides were throwing petrol bombs.
A pro-Russian aims a pistol at supporters of the Kiev government during clashes in Odessa - 2 May 2014 Pro-Russian crowds took to the streets of Odessa, with some armed men threatening Kiev supporters
Pro-Ukrainian crowds pick up rubble from the street to throw at militant separatists in Odessa - 2 May 2014 The violent clashes followed a rally by Ukrainian football fans in the south-western port city
Trashed items are smoldering among debris at a square following clashes in Odessa, Ukraine, on Friday - 2 May 2014  
A series of skirmishes between the rival groups left a trail of destruction across Odessa
Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky told the BBC that an investigation was under way into the events but insisted Russia was behind the violence.

"The situation remains under control. But the security situation is threatened by Russian special agents," he said.

"That's why we are requesting and demanding Russian authorities to stop their efforts that can undermine regional security and stability."

Earlier on Friday four people were killed in clashes between the pro-Russian and pro-Kiev protesters in Odessa - the first such eruption of violence in the south after weeks of mounting unrest in Ukraine's east.
BBC Map of Odessa and Trade Unions House
The BBC's David Stern in Kiev says the death toll in Odessa is the highest since violence broke out between pro-EU protesters and police in the capital in February.

The Black Sea city is ethnically mixed with a large number of Russian speakers, our correspondent says.

'A criminal adventure' The US called for the commitments made in Geneva last month to be implemented, referring to the agreement signed by all sides to dissolve illegal militia operating in eastern Ukraine.
Fergal Keane reports from outside Sloviansk where several people died in clashes

Pro-Russian gunmen have seized scores of government buildings in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks and have also detained several international observers.

On Friday President Oleksandr Turchynov said that Ukrainian armed forces killed many separatists in an offensive in the eastern city of Sloviansk.

During the day government forces took over pro-Russian checkpoints outside the city but separatists shot down two Ukrainian army helicopters, killing a pilot and another serviceman.
Ukrainian soldiers stand at a checkpoint they seized on the outskirts of Sloviansk - 2 May 2014 Ukrainian troops launched a dawn raid on pro-Russian gunmen on the outskirts of Sloviansk on Friday
Russia responded by calling a meeting of the Security Council in New York, where it criticised Kiev and labelled the government offensive in eastern Ukraine a "criminal adventure."

Ukrainian government forces reportedly continued operations against separatists in the east at dawn on Saturday near the town of Kramatorsk.

Reuters news agency quoted Interior Minister Arsen Avakov as saying Ukrainian forces had seized control of a television tower.

Further sanctions threatened The West continues to accuse Moscow of provoking the unrest in eastern Ukraine, something Russia denies.

US President Barack Obama, at a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House, warned of further sanctions against Russia if it did not "change course".
He said the idea that the unrest was caused by a "spontaneous uprising" was "belied" by the militants' use of missiles.
US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a press conference at the White House - 2 May 2014 Mr Obama and Chancellor Merkel said they were united in their support for broad sanctions against Russia
Eastern Ukraine has a large Russian-speaking population. It was a stronghold for President Viktor Yanukovych before he was overthrown by pro-Western protesters in February.

Russia then annexed the Crimean peninsula - part of Ukraine but with a Russian-speaking majority - in a move that provoked international outrage.

The crisis has plunged East-West relations to their lowest point since the Cold War ended in the early 1990s.
Map showing eastern Ukraine
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