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    Posted May 2, 2014 by
    Odessa, Ukraine
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Ukraine unrest

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    Aftermath of Clashes in Odessa, Ukraine

    It is with a heavy heart to provide an update that at least 35 people died today here in Odessa. Rumors and unconfirmed reports are swirling through the city, but some people are saying more than 40 people have died and the numbers seem to be rising. Reports state that 4 people died in the clashes (photos taken a few hours after the clashes) and that at least 30 more people died when they were trapped in a building that may have been intentionally set on fire. Some reports have said that the building set on fire may have been the location of a political party, but I cannot verify this. I met several people tonight who said that at least some of the people who died in the building fire perished when they tried to jump to escape the smoke and flames and landed on the sidewalk and street below.

    Although there is news about significant fighting in Eastern Ukraine between state security forces and pro-Russian militias, it is possible that the death toll today in Odessa is the worst so far second only to the violence in January and February that took place in Kiev (Kyiv) that toppled the government.

    The photos below were taken near the Athena Mall in Odessa only a block from Deribasavskya Street and where I had been when the clashes began. The mall was evacuated and I went to a safe location away from the danger area. I was surprised to find this when I returned. There are large areas of the street that appear to be covered with blood stains and there are discarded first aid supplies and latex gloves littering the area.

    It was hard not to notice that all of this took place in front of a large orthodox church in the square where the protesters had been peacefully marching earlier when the clashes started.

    Odessa is known as an international tourist destination and the people here are noticeably friendly and accepting of foreigners. Although Odessa is generally considered to be "pro-Russian" because of the number of Russian speakers here, in my opinion it is an over-generalization to say that Odessa is decidedly pro-Russian. It would seem more accurate to say that the people here just wanted peace, stability, and to continue their life near the Black Sea in this resort city. Pro-Ukrainian demonstrations have been larger than the pro-Russian demonstrations by several orders of magnitude over the past several months.

    With the scale of the violence today, it is difficult to predict what may follow tomorrow when more people learn the tragic news. It is possible that revenge and reprisals could be forthcoming, but the shock expressed by locals I spoke to throughout the day today give me some hope that perhaps tomorrow people will be showing support and solidarity in favor of peace.

    I fear that even if peaceful demonstrations follow in the coming days, this to could easily be exploited by people and/or groups determined to cause more violence like I personally witnessed today.
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