The trail of Odesa
Three years after the May 2 fire at the Trade Unions’ Building in Odesa, virtually all those involved have fled Ukraine. The remaining suspects have been under trial for more than two years now
“Ihad not known him before,” Valeria says. “I’ve seen him by my parents’ car on photographs. Later I’ve heard that he referred to himself as the “commandant of Kulikovo Pole in Odesa.” On August 10, 2014, Valeria’s mother, Olena Kulish and her husband Volodymyr Alekhin who lived in Peremozhne, a village near Luhansk Airport, were kidnapped. Her grandfather and several kids from the next-door families who were using the basement as a bomb shelter stayed in the house for the days that the shelling lasted. Valeria’s parents never returned. Six months later, Valeria got a call from the “Luhansk People’s Republic prosecutor’s office”. She was told of two bodies that had been found and could be her parents. She was invited to come to Luhansk and identify them. That visit could be pretty risky. Her relatives managed to send the DNA of the bodies to Kyiv. The analysis confirmed the assumptions of the “LNR prosecutor’s office”.
An “individual special force Odesa brigade” was involved in the murder of Valeria’s parents. At least two suspects featured in the case: Oleksiy Gerikh and Oleksiy Fominov. The same gang was involved in another murder: on August 22, 2014, seven armed men from it killed the Bochnevych family of four.
“Many residents of Peremozhne used to work at the Luhansk Airport,” comments Yevhenia Zakrevska, a human rights advocate working with Valeria. “When the fighting began, some locals started delivering humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian military, mostly food. That put them on the militants’ execution lists. In fact, those lists featured both people who were helping the Ukrainian Army, and those who were more or less open about their pro-Ukrainian stance, those who were wealthier than others, and those who were more successful. Valeria’s mother had worked at a radio station, her stepfather had been a software developer,” Yevhenia says.
The Odesa gang was involved in kidnapping people and looting, among other things, she adds.
“Some people from those execution lists fled, some were killed. There are reasons to believe that it was done by the Odesa brigade. In some cases, people were taken to an unknown destination and then brought back home. The facts of looting were recorded. For instance, the house of Olena Kulish and her husband was looted at least twice after they had been kidnapped. At that point, Valeria’s grandfather still lived there,” Zakrevska says.
The gang named itself Odesa for a reason. Some of its members had been noticed before the war broke out in Donbas. The first mention of them dates back to the May 2, 2014 tragedy in Odesa. Moreover, Oleksiy Fominov personally admitted that he had been a “commandant of the Kulikovo Pole” (the square where the Odesa Trade Unions’ building is located and the anti-Maidan gathered in the late 2013 and early 2014 - Ed.). He said this in an interview for Den-TV, an online channel. A closer look reveals curious details. In addition to calling himself a “commandant” he speaks of his involvement in the May 2 clashes in Odesa, his move to Rostovon-Don in Russia, and later to Luhansk. It was there that Fominov organized the gang. In the interview he also mentioned his stay in Peremozhne and fighting over the Luhansk Airport.
According to reports in the media and the letters sent by Fominov and Gerich to the St. Petersburg Defense and Security magazine, the “commandant of the Kulikovo Pole” is a citizen of the Russian Federation. Before Fominov visited Odesa in May 2014, he had allegedly been in jail but had been released early. No more details are available on him at present.