Image from twitter.com @RT_com
Four people were killed and 37 wounded as rival rallies clashed in Ukraine's port-city of Odessa. A pro-unity demonstration, which included nationalists and football fans, ran into a rally preaching greater autonomy for the regions.
Gunfire was heard in Odessa's downtown on Friday as two rival rallies met, police having failed to draw them apart. Over 2,000 protesters pelted each other with Molotov cocktails and smoke grenades. Pavements were dismantled to get the stones for the fight, like it was done in Kiev during the Maidan protests.
Local police reported that four people were killed in the stand-off, and at least one of them died due to a gun-shot wound. At least 37 received injuries in clashes.
It all started as around 1,500 supporters of the Kiev authorities gathered at Sobornaya Square in central Odessa. They were accompanied by fans of the local football club, Chernomorets.
Some of the people in the group were wearing the ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement insignia. They were also armed with chains and bats and carried shields, as an Itar-Tass correspondent on the ground reported.
The group tried to march through the city, chanting “Glory to Ukraine”, “Death to enemies”, “Knife the Moskals [derogatory for Russians]”.
The procession was then confronted by several hundred pro-federalization activists. Fighting erupted as a result, with members of the rival groups throwing stones at each other and at police, who tried to stop the violence. The pavements are spattered with blood.
Nationalists mingling with football fans hijacked a fire truck, which they used in an attempt to ram the defense of the rival rally, Itar-Tass reported. The driver was also forced out of the vehicle and had to run for his life, as a live stream showed.
The city’s authorities have gathered at city council for an emergency meeting aimed at stopping the disorder in Odessa, Mayor Vladimir Nemirovsky said in a statement on his Facebook account.
“We are making all possible intensive measures to restore law and order,” he said, adding that the perpetrators will be pursued and found.
Odessa, the Black Sea coastal city in Ukraine, has been among the southeast Ukrainian cities swept by massive protests, both pro- and anti-government, following the February coup in Kiev.
At the end of March thousands were rallying in Odessa, questioning the legitimacy of the coup-imposed government and demanding referendum on granting more freedoms to the regions.
Before the radical far-right group arrived in Odessa, rallies supporting the Kiev authorities numbered only several hundreds of people, while the pro-federalization rallies opposing Kiev gathered thousands.
Last week, local police chief, Petr Lutsuk, demanded the expulsion of recently-arrived radicals from the city.
"A large number of people had gathered in Kiev, and it was decided to send these groups to Odessa. We do not need them. They came and created a volatile situation," he said.