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

The Ukrainian Week - - POLITICS - Stanislav Ko­zliuk

“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.

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