While people in the Ukrainian city of Odessa were marking the fifth anniversary of a tragedy that rocked the city in 2014, local ultra-nationalists staged a torchlight procession they called the “March of the Ukrainian Order.”
On Thursday, many Ukrainians were laying wreaths at the steps of the House of the Trade Unions in Odessa, carrying placards with photos of 43 people who burned alive or died from smoke inhalation in the building in May 2014. The victims were opponents of the Maidan coup and had attempted to hide inside the building, after clashes with nationalists from the notorious far-right group Right Sector, who are suspected of then setting the building on fire.
However, the ultra-nationalists from the Ukrainian National Corps Party and its militant wing –called the National Brigades– decided the day of that tragedy’s fifth anniversary was the appropriate occasion for staging a Nazi-like torchlight procession, which they tellingly called “the March of Ukrainian Order.”
More than 1,000 people took part in the procession, which moved through the city center. Many of the demonstrators were wearing paramilitary uniforms bearing the logos of the ‘National Brigades.’
The nationalists were holding Ukrainian flags and chanting slogans such as “Odessa is Ukraine!” and “Glory to the nation – death to its enemies!” They also praised those whom they called “The heroes of May 2,” referring to the nationalists who participated in the May 2014 clashes that led to the deadly fire.
The marchers even said prayers for those that died on May 2, 2014, while specifically commemorating two nationalists.
As dusk fell on the city, the far-right participants started to burn torches and flares. Videos of the march that surfaced on social media show that virtually no police officers were deployed to the scene to maintain order, even though security in the city has been enhanced, according to the authorities.
Five years after the tragedy, an investigation hasn’t made much progress and, so far, only one person has been convicted in relation to the clashes. The UN has criticized the inquiry and Ukrainian authorities for failing to find the culprits of what many see as a massacre, a failure said to be because of “political interests.”