Russia called an extraordinary open meeting of the UN Security Council, which met midday Friday in New York (see below).
After German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to Russian President Putin on the telephone Thursday, May 1, to intervene to free the German military observers held captive in eastern Ukraine, and the top-level Germans attending former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s St. Petersburg birthday party with Putin did the same, Putin dispatched Russian human rights figure Vladimir Lukin to Ukraine as his personal representative to negotiate their freedom. Lukin had also been Putin’s representative at the February 21 negotiations on Ukraine which included the French, Polish and German foreign ministers.
But Lukin’s mission was immediately overshadowed by a major military offensive by the fascist Kiev forces against the city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine, which began at 05:00 local time. Since then, ITAR-TASS has reported three deaths in and around the city, and the downing of two Kiev helicopters, with a third helicopter damaged. Russia lost touch with envoy Lukin for many hours, although a later dispatch says that his staff communicated that he is safe and in contact with them.
At 12:25 Moscow time, ITAR-TASS reported Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that while Russia “is taking all efforts to de-escalate and settle the current conflict; current Kiev authorities have started shelling peaceful settlements from warplanes, have started a punitive operation, actually ruining the last hope for the viability of the Geneva accords [of April 17].”
At 14:57, ITAR-TASS reported a Russian Foreign Ministry statement which said inter alia, “Ukrainian army units use tanks, other heavy military hardware, helicopter gunships which are delivering missile strikes on protesters. Information about casualties and wounded people is coming. The use of the army against their own people is a crime and is leading Ukraine to a catastrophe.”
The Kremlin website affirms that Putin is continually abreast of all developments in southeast Ukraine.
On Lukin, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, at about 15:44, “We demand taking exhaustive measures to ensure security of the Russian envoy, because we do not rule [out] a provocation from [the] Kiev rulers to foil his mission, which is already exposed to a threat over aggressive actions of Ukrainian army and radical gunmen around the city of Slavyansk.” At 16:01, ITAR-TASS reported, “Ukraine helicopters strike massive gatherings of east Ukraine’s Slavyansk civilians,” without further details.
The passion with which many ordinary (unarmed) villagers in southeast Ukraine oppose the armed operation of what they call the “fascist” Kiev government is evident, for instance, in French television footage which interviews them while they are blocking tanks and armored vehicles with their bodies.
The catastrophic developments in Ukraine, as the Russian Foreign Ministry characterizes them, were in reality central to those talks, whatever may be reported otherwise.
The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement around 22:30 Moscow time, saying that Lukin is in Donetsk and is prepared to proceed to Slavyansk, since there is “preliminary agreement with the leadership of Slavyansk [the militias] that the European officers will be allowed to leave the city, accompanied by V.P. Lukin, without the involvement of any other foreign representatives in his team.” This plan is supported by OCSE and Council of Europe representatives, but the Ukrainian Army and Right Sector do not agree to allow Lukin into the city. Appeals to Kiev, including through OCSE channels, have been fruitless. “One has the impression that Kiev sees V.P. Lukin’s mission as an obstacle to their plans to begin the storming of Slavyansk in the next hours.” The statement calls on “the Western protectors of the current authorities in Kiev” to make them cooperate in freeing the European military specialists. The work has been done, but “now it is becoming clear who wants to prolong the crisis around these European specialists,” says the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Later, at 23:45 Moscow time, the Ministry reported that Lavrov had called Swiss President Burkhalter, current chair of the OSCE, asking him to use his powers in this situation. Lavrov told him that the leaders in Slavyansk are prepared to hand over the European military people, “on the understanding that the Kiev authorities will not impede this mission.” Burkhalter promised to act immediately to seek cooperation on the part of the Ukrainian military units who are controlling entry and exit to and from Slavyansk. “The Russian side stated that the ability of the Kiev authorities to cooperate on this matter will be an indicator of their actual readiness to take practical steps to de-escalate the situation in southeastern Ukraine.”
RIGHT SECTOR TRIGGERS ODESSA MASSACRE
Over 40 people are dead and 170 injured after shootings and a fire, triggered by Right Sector paramilitary actions in Ukraine’s southeastern port city of Odessa on Friday, city officials announced. The Right Sector militants, from the neo-Nazi grouping that was instrumental in the February 2014 coup in Kiev, evidently chose the day of a big soccer match, to be able to draw large numbers of soccer fans into a March for Ukrainian Unity, as they called it. The march, under Ukrainian and also Banderite (as in the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera) flags, clashed with anti-coup militants in central Odessa. Video images from the scene showed police lines, attempting to separate the two groups, being overrun. There were several gunshot deaths and injuries in the afternoon, but all hell broke loose when the Right Sector/soccer mob set fire to the Trade Unions building, into which the anti-Kiev activists had moved. Dozens were asphyxiated or fell to their deaths from windowsills as they attempted to escape the fire. After midnight, 50 people were still on the roof of the building. Even the pro-coup Kyiv Post reported that the mob screamed the Banderite slogans “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Death to the Enemies!” as they hurled Molotov cocktails into the burning building. The city government declared May 3-5 as days of mourning.
IZVESTIA: DEATHS AND INJURIES IN “STORMING” OF KRAMATORSK, DONETSK REGION
News from the early hours of May 3 in Ukraine is that a “storming” of the city of Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region is under way. Kramatorsk (population 173,000) is 15 km south of Slavyansk, where fighting was ongoing all day, and 100 km north of the regional capital, Donetsk. This is a preliminary report, carried on the website of Izvestia: “The tragedy in Odessa and fighting in southeastern Ukraine could be the beginning of a civil war. The storming of Kramatorsk began between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. on May 3, … launched by the National Guard and Right Sector units that joined it.” RIA Novosti carried a report citing a doctor in Kramatorsk, who spoke of “dozens” of killed and wounded.