The most dangerous day for Ukraine
The dead toll of May 2 clashes in Odessa is still counting as Ukraine is entering its most dangerous days since its independence. The anti-terror operation is on the verge in eastern regions of the country, while separatists have announced a Crimean-styled independence referendum on May 11.
- Wednesday, 07 May 2014
What happened in Odessa could change the forthcoming scenario: now that both parts have their martyrs and the country is on the edge of a civil war, everything could happen.
The 104 victims of the Battle of Kiev that put the city on fire on 18-20 February, are being venerated by “Maidaners” like saints. Ukrainians call them “The heavenly hundred”, their pictures cover walls in Kyiv and many other western cities, from Ivano-Franivsk to Lviv, and the celebration of public mourning filled the huge Maidan Nezalezhnosti like in the harshest days of the revolution. This is the power of martyrs. Their memory moves crowds, shakes even the most peaceful people’s souls and gives a good reason to hate your enemy. The “Heavenly hundred’s” enemies were the Yanukovich regime’s Berkut (the special force that shoot demonstrators in the streets of Kyiv), and now are the pro-Russian (and Russian-backed) separatists that stormed the eastern provinces. They call them “terrorists”.
But the clashes in Odessa may have shuffled the cards on the table.
The monopoly of sorrow
The latest figure of the dead in the Odessa clashes is 46, according to the local branch of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. They belong to the pro-Russian demonstrators who took shelter from the other bloc in the Trade Union House. Molotov cocktails thrown from outside set the building on fire and caused dozens of dead. The city of Odessa observed three days of mourning and a big march in memory of the dead was held in Moscow. No matter if (as it seems) the most majority of the victims were not Ukrainian, but Russian nationals and residents in the breakaway republic of Transinstria: now pro-Russians, eastern separatists and anti-Maidan have their martyrs too. Euromaidan lost the monopoly of sorrow for the ongoing unrest in Ukraine.
Having your own martyrs to cry for, make your bloc more united, helps depicting the enemy as a violent barbarian to fight and eventually justifies any violent action from your side. What changed after Odessa is that now the crisis could easily escalate to a civil war. Not to mention the risk of a Russian intervention.
The most dangerous day
Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said in an interview with the Financial Times that the country was entering its "most dangerous 10 days" since independence in 1991. Yatsenyuk pronounced his words on May 1, before Odessa massacre and on the verge of launching the second stage of the anti-terror op in the eastern provinces that caused other casualties, but they could mean something different. The self-proclaimed separatist authorities have announced a Crimean-style referendum for independence on May 11, a date close to the biggest national holyday of Den pobedy (Victory day), celebrated on May 9. Remembering the Allied victory against the Nazis, the Den Pobedy is the day when nostalgia for Soviet victories and achievements tends to peak. Its symbol is the black and orange St. George’s ribbon, used by separatists in opposition to the Ukrainian flag, insomuch as Kyiv’s authorities decided not to use it for the next Victory day celebration (it will be replaced by a stylized poppy). For people who believe they are fighting against a neo-nazi “junta” in Kyiv that threatens all Russian-speaking Ukrainians, the Den Pobedy gains an even stronger significance.
If Russia seeks to destabilize Ukraine, these are the perfect days.