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Dozens of people killed in Odessa as Trade Union goes up in flames (UPDATES, VIDEO)

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May 3, 2014, 12:36 a.m. | Ukraine — by Christopher J. Miller


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Christopher J. Miller

Christopher J. Miller is an American editor at the Kyiv Post. He is also a regular contributor to Mashable, and has written for GlobalPost, The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent and others. A former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer (Artemivsk, Donetsk Oblast, 2010-2012), he can be reached at millerjchristopher@gmail.com.

IZYUM, Ukraine --  Dozens of people were killed in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa on May 2 after the city's Trade Union building went up in flames following clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian groups.

The blaze marked Ukraine's deadliest day since more than 70 people were killed on Independence Square during the EuroMaidan Revolution in Kyiv on Feb. 20, most of the 105 killed in those demonstrations.

The Interior Ministry reports that at least 31 people died in the fire, a majority of whom suffocated. Some died in a desperate attempt to escape after leaping from the building's meters-high windows. The Odessa city website, meanwhile, reports that 41 were killed and another 123 injured, according to its preliminary findings.

The blaze began after pro-Russian separatists clashed with activists partaking in a rally filled with supporters for a united Ukraine. The rival groups hurled cobblestones, smoke grenades and Molotov cocktails at each other. 

A mob shouted "Glory to Ukraine" and "Death to enemies" as the building burned with people inside.

Videos published on YouTube show the central district of the city in flames and filled with smoke. Some appear to show blackened corpes presumably of those caught inside the building as it went up in flames.

Photographs circulating on Twitter and Facebook show people - some presumably in their teens - mixing explosive concoctions in discarded beer bottles before lobbing them into the building.

As the fire raged on, people could be seen in live footage toeing the windowsills of the building in search of an escape. In the end, several didn't make it out. 

The Interior Ministry first reported that 38 had died as a result, but later revised the number to 31, a majority of whom perished due to smoke inhalation. Most of those who died were pro-Russian protesters who had used the Trade Unions building as their headquarters.

The deaths are certain to incite further unrest and inflame relations with Russia, which has said it reserves the right to intervene in Ukraine in order to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

Kyiv Post editor Christopher J. Miller can be reached at millerjchristopher@gmail.com, and on Twitter at @ChristopherJM.

Editor’s Note: This article has been produced with support from the project www.mymedia.org.ua, financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action.The content in this article may not necessarily reflect the views of the Danish government, NIRAS and BBC Action Media.


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