Odessa braces for violence on Victory Day

Residents of Odessa are fearful that violence will spike on Friday, Russia's Victory Day celebration.
By JC Finley  |  May 8, 2014 at 5:11 PM
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ODESSA, Ukraine, May 8 (UPI) -- Odessa, one of Ukraine's largest cities, is bracing for an outbreak of potential violence on Friday.

Unrest has plagued the port city since early May, and fear that Friday's Victory Day holiday could cause violence to spike has prompted schools to close and shops to shutter.

Irina Kochergina, who manages the City Garden Cafe in Odessa said "Panic and fear scared our visitors away. We, too, feel worried and plan to keep the doors closed on May 9 to avoid the danger."

Pro-Russian militants have clashed violently with pro-sovereignty activists, and trust in law enforcement is waning. The unrest in Odessa, locals say, is not spurred by ethnic differences but instead by ideology.

On May 2, pro-Russian militants attacked a pro-Ukraine rally. The militants sought shelter in a trade union building, but were attacked with Molotov cocktails reportedly thrown by pro-Ukrainian activists. "Provocateurs," Ukraine's security service asserted, were responsible. 46 people were killed in the attack; 32 from smoke inhalation; eight from jumping out of the burning building; and six killed in clashes.

Two days later, pro-Russian separatists rallied outside police headquarters in Odessa and demanded the release of 67 people detains during Friday's unrest. The police let the detainees go in a move that is currently under criminal investigation, said the prosecutor's office.

Friday's Victory Day celebrates the Nazi's surrender to the Soviet Union.

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