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Odessa police release 67 anti-govt activists after crowd surrounds police HQ

Published time: May 04, 2014 14:08
Edited time: May 05, 2014 05:17

Participants of a rally welcome a man (C) who was just released from a city police department and who was earlier arrested after recent street battles between pro- and anti-Kiev protesters in the Black Sea port of Odessa May 4, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

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Sixty-seven anti-government activists detained by police in the south Ukrainian city of Odessa have been released after a crowd of locals blocked the Interior Ministry building. Those released reportedly included survivors from the deadly May-2 fire.

A crowd of Odessa residents, which included many women and elderly people as seen on live video streams from the scene, cheered and hugged the released activists.

RT’s Irina Galushko reported that despite being set free, the activists did not have the charges against them dropped and were asked “to come back tomorrow for their belongings.”

According to Galushko, riot police present at the scene were standing idly by, while the people chanted "Heroes!" and "Freedom!"

The release of just several activists did not, however, appease the crowd. Some of the protesters attempted to get inside the building, shouting "Fascists! Fascists!"

Eventually, 67 activists have been released, Odessa police department’s press service has said. More than 1,000 people were blockading the police department at the time of the statement, according to Itar-Tass. Part of the crowd had broken down the entrance gate and gained access to the building’s courtyard.

Around 100 people rallying in central Odessa on Sunday initially blocked the local Interior Ministry department in protest against the detention of anti-government activists following the tragic events of Friday, May 2. The protesters have been trying to prevent the police from sending the detained, which reportedly include dozens of survivors of the Trade Union House fire, to the regional court building.

The release wasn’t taken lightly by Odessa’s regional governor, Vladimir Nemirovsky, who described the move as an attempt by some people in law enforcement to cover themselves.

“I know who took the decision to release the detained criminals. And more importantly I know who took the decision to keep them in Odessa instead of in another region,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “If Odessa region wants to live in peace and order, the law enforcement, the region’s administration, the army and all the systems of government must work as a single organism.”

Nemirovsky previously justified the burning of anti-Maidan protesters by radicals, saying that “actions aimed at neutralizing and detention of armed terrorist are considered lawful.” He has accused the Odessa police chief of failing to crackdown on the protest and pushed for the central government in Kiev to replace him.

People gather in front of Ukrainian Interior Ministry security forces members who formed a cordon outside a city police department in the Black Sea port of Odessa May 4, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has announced that 160 of the “most active participants in the mass unrest” have been detained and charged with creating “mass disorder” and “threats or violence against the law enforcement.” Earlier, the ministry blamed anti-Kiev protesters for initiating the violence on Friday and even for starting the fire that claimed the lives of 39 of their fellow activists.

Despite clear evidence that the pro-Kiev radicals set Odessa’s House of Trade Unions ablaze and shot at the people from the anti-government tent camp who barricaded themselves inside the building, the Western mainstream media is also being ambiguous about the causes of the tragedy.

Hundreds of people in Odessa on Sunday continued to bring flowers and candles to the House of Trade Unions amid the three-day mourning period for victims of the May 2 clashes. In eastern Ukrainian cities, such as Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkov, hundreds gathered for rallies in memory of those killed in Odessa, delivering anti-government slogans.

Video: /files/news/26/43/40/00/1584874_lugansk_web_480p.mp4

In the Russian Republic of Crimea, the local government announced a three-day mourning to commemorate the innocent victims in Odessa and to express solidarity with the people of southeastern Ukraine.

In Moscow, people have been taking flowers, icons, candles, St. George ribbons, and Ukrainian flags to the Ukrainian embassy. Many cried, while some rallied in front of the embassy against the coup-imposed Kiev government.

A woman lays flowers by the fence of the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow on May 3, 2014, in honor of people killed during clashes in Odessa. (AFP Photo)