ReportRussia Caucasus Ukraine

In Odessa, nationalists, Soviets and federalists face each other

Viktor and his detachment of young demonstrators in the pro-Russian camp Loreline Merelle@B2
Viktor and his detachment of young pro-Russian demonstrators Loreline Merelle@B2

(BRUSSELS2 to Odessa) 2 to 3000 pro-Russians marched on Sunday (April 13) from their stronghold of Kulikovo south of the port city of Odessa to the steps of Potemkin, bastion of pro-Ukrainian supporters of Euromaidan. The situation could quickly escalate. For two months, the city of Odessa has been living on a war footing between two opposing camps.

The Pro-Russians built their own quasi-military encampments around Kulikovo Square. Some want the union with Russia, others a federalization of Ukraine. Who provides them with equipment and food? Black cars with tinted windows circulate on Kulikovo Square, sometimes in full demonstration, while access is blocked by police. They leave the way open to all hypotheses.

Supporters of Euromaidan, on the other hand, display Ukrainian unity and call for " national resistance during demonstrations around the Duke of Richelieu and the Potemkin marches. Both sides treat each other as "traitors". In the street, flags are waved, symbols of belonging. The Ukrainian blue and yellow in the north of the city faces the two pro-Russian tendencies in the south of the city, divided between the Stalinist red flag of the former Soviet Union and the black, white and yellow flag of imperialism Russian. As for the stars of the European flag, once proudly brandished, they are conspicuous today by their absence.

On the place of Kulikovo: the pro-Russian camp and its two tendencies 

Place Koulikovo with its camps and barricades Loreline Merelle@B2
Place Koulikovo with its camps and barricades Loreline Merelle@B2

On the large paved square of Kulikovo, in the middle of the park, next to the central station, two camps of Pro-Russian demonstrators are installed surrounded by barricades.

On the first camp, set up on February 23, the red flag is clearly visible and the reference to the Soviet Union is omnipresent. In the second facing it, installed less than a month ago and guarded by young men with military discipline, the black, white and yellow flags of Tsar Paul 1 (1796-1801) are displayed conspicuously at the entrance. . The two camps come together during the demonstrations, forming the same two faces of the same face.

For an attachment to Russia

Jeep with a Stalinist flag on Kulikovo Square Loreline Merelle@B2
Jeep with a Stalinist flag on Kulikovo Square Loreline Merelle@B2

In the first camp, at the foot of the columns of the Koulikovo building, around fifty demonstrators have been living in canvas or plastic tents for two months. The atmosphere is camping. We would almost take out the barbecue if the weather allowed.

About sixty men, women between forty and eighty take coffee, tea and chat enthusiastically around the red flags of the Soviet Union. Some wear khaki uniforms and helmets that seem straight out of their attics and old war relics. A jeep with a Stalinist flag is parked in front of the camp. "It belonged to the Soviet army during the Second World War Pavel proudly tells me, a Ukrainian and pro-Russian activist who came straight from Los Angeles to support the movement.

Next to it, altars are installed in honor of the dead of the Berkut law enforcement agencies, killed during the demonstrations in kyiv. "They didn't deserve it" blurts out an old woman, taking out her handkerchief. She then goes to meditate in a tent with a Christian image, the camp's Orthodox church. “We are for a referendum and economic attachment to Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan” says Natacha, a fifty-year-old woman, for whom it's the only way to " make it out ". She thus regrets the time when the "education of young people was provided by the Soviet Union".

For a federalization of Ukraine 

Entrance to the pro-Russian camp in Odessa, Loreline Merelle@B2
Entrance to the pro-Russian camp in Odessa, Loreline Merelle@B2

The atmosphere is radically different in the other camp installed on the square for a month. Around the tents, about forty young men aged 16 to 25, hooded, armed with bats, shields and truncheons make the rounds with a very military discipline. They form the "Citizens' rights protection guard", as their "commander" proudly asserts Viktor, former security guard in Odessa.

He is at the head of a real small army with men but also women. They are four to share the dormitories of young people on makeshift beds, wooden planks and pillows, in tents heated with old stoves. "Because the city and the new government do not provide us with electricity" regrets the commander.

Their objective : " a federalization of Ukraine, a bit like the Russian Federation ". Inside one of the tents is proudly displayed the flag of the port city of Mykolaiv, administrative capital of the oblast (region) of Mykolaiv, founded by the Russian general Grigory Potemkin at the mouth of the sea. black and specialized in shipbuilding. “The city is in the same situation as Odessa and we are together for federalization” says Viktor proudly.

To the Duke of Richelieu: the Euromaidans display Ukrainian unity 

Euromaidan demonstrators in front of the city garden, Odessa Loreline Merelle@B2
Euromaidan demonstrators in front of the city garden, Odessa Loreline Merelle@B2

The partisans, pro-Ukrainians, Euromaïdans find themselves in the north of the city, in front of the duke of Richelieu and the steps Potemkine. They display the Ukrainian flag as a sign of unity. The European flag, once very present in the demonstrations, has disappeared from the processions. Moreover, we no longer really appeal to Europe, but rather to "national resistance" against the Russian invader. The most important demonstrations are organized on Saturday evening at 18 p.m. with a few thousand people. Using social networks, the organizers are setting up rallying and “collection” points.

A chain of solidarity was thus formed in front of the "city garden" along Mayakosvogo Street on Saturday (April 12) at 13 p.m. We barely see the Ukrainian flag, a symbol of rallying. Little by little, the demonstrators gather in dispersed order, braving the bad weather. About fifty then a hundred demonstrators soon form a yellow and blue line. Aged between 20 and 40, they are smiling and proudly wearing the colors of Ukraine. At 14 p.m., they begin to sing the anthem, brandishing their banners. In the streets, we regularly see private cars passing with flag carriers in the colors of Ukraine. And the discourse is radicalized against “traitors who sell their country”.

(Loreline Merelle)

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Loreline Merelle

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