News / Europe

Violence in Ukraine's Odessa Could Lead to Even More Unrest

A pro-Russian protester fires a fire extinguisher at riot police inside at a police station building in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Several prisoners that were detained during clashes that erupted Friday between pro-Russians and government suppo
A pro-Russian protester fires a fire extinguisher at riot police inside at a police station building in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Several prisoners that were detained during clashes that erupted Friday between pro-Russians and government suppo
Ken Bredemeier
Most of the unrest in Ukraine has been in the predominantly Russian-speaking eastern part of the country. But new disturbances in the last few days -- and a deadly fire that killed 42 mostly pro-Russian activists -- occurred far to the west in Odessa. It is a Black Sea port city that is important -- for different reasons  -- to both Ukraine and Russia, and could prove to be a catalyst to even more violence.

Odessa is in southwest Ukraine, and with one million residents is the country's third largest city. It is about 700 kilometers from where Ukrainian forces are engaged in increasingly fierce fighting with pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukrainian cities. But Odessa caught the world's attention Friday when street clashes led to the fire that killed mostly pro-Russian insurgents, and on Sunday when protesters stormed the city police station to free some of the anti-Ukrainian demonstrators who had been arrested two days before.

By Monday, the Kyiv government dispatched a special police unit to the city to quell the violence after deciding that the Odessa police were incapable -- or unwilling -- to control the unrest.

One expert on former Soviet republics like Ukraine, University of New Hampshire political scientist Lionel Ingram, tells VOA that Odessa is crucial to both Ukraine and Russia.

"It's most probably the last great port that the Ukraine has on the Black Sea, in fact the last port it has at all, to give it access directly to the ocean," he said. "That's important to the Ukraine. It is important to Russia, for I believe, psychological and political reasons. It was a major place in relationship to the Russian revolution. That's also where they kept the fleet that rebelled against the czar."

But Ingram says the city could prove volatile if the national Ukrainian government cannot keep control.

"I think it's going to be a new flashpoint because, one, it appears the police there have behaved in the same fashion as they behaved as the police in the east," he said. "They have not been protective of the sovereignty of Kyiv. But more importantly, it's going to be a flashpoint which is going to be difficult for the Russians to take advantage of. The population there is much more Ukrainian-focused."

Political scientist Mark Schrad at Pennsylvania's Villanova University, another expert on the former Soviet republics, says it might not be easy for Odessa to keep the peace in the aftermath of the clashes of the last few days.

"I think with so many people losing their lives, and so many loved ones losing their lives, I don't think people are going to be willing to kiss and make up all that soon," he said.

In addition, he said the Odessa violence could reach Trans-Dniester, the narrow strip ​
Trans-Dniester, Odessa, Moldova, Crimea and Ukraine (CLICK TO EXPAND)Trans-Dniester, Odessa, Moldova, Crimea and Ukraine (CLICK TO EXPAND)
x
Trans-Dniester, Odessa, Moldova, Crimea and Ukraine (CLICK TO EXPAND)
Trans-Dniester, Odessa, Moldova, Crimea and Ukraine (CLICK TO EXPAND)
of Moldova farther west that wants to be part of Russia, even though the world at large does not recognize its announced intention.

"So there is a potential for instability there," Schrad said. "There is a suggestion that [Odessa] is something of a bridge between the rumblings in the east and then Crimea as well, and this volatile Trans-Dniester region in Moldova."

He says the violence in Odessa could embolden pro-Russian groups to start local uprisings in other cities, even if they are outnumbered in their communities by supporters of Ukraine.
 
  • A pro-Russian gunman speaks by phone in front of the city hall decorated with the flag of self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 8, 2014.
  • A pro-Russia man takes cover from the rain with a piece of wood at the barricades surrounding the Donetsk administration building after a press conference to inform the media about a referendum, May 8, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian gunman atop a car patrols through the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 8, 2014.
  • The mother of a Cossack man killed in the burning of the trade union on May 2 holds a candle while crying next to his coffin during the funeral in Odessa, Ukraine, May 8, 2014.
  • A pro-Russia rebel wearing a gas mask places a Russian flag on the balcony of the city hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 7, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian flag burns outside the city hall in Mariupol, May 7, 2014.
  • A woman looks at a Ukrainian armored personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol, May 7, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian soldier talks to a man at a checkpoint near the town of Slovyansk, May 7, 2014.
  • An armed pro-Russian man guards the local administration building behind barricades, with a helmet bearing a flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Slovyansk, May 6, 2014.
  • A worker walks past an information board displaying flight delays and cancellations at the international airport in Donetsk, May 6, 2014.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs