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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More