News World Flowers, fury in tragedy-stricken Odessa

Flowers, fury in tragedy-stricken Odessa

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Flowers, candles and photos of the dead are piling up outside a charred building in the scenic Ukrainian port city of Odessa where anger simmers a day after brutal clashes claimed 42 lives.

Under a warm spring sun, several thousand gathered outside the blackened trade union building, where dozens perished in an inferno that marked the culmination of a day of confrontation.

“Yes, I’m Russian. I’m really Russian. Arrest me if you want. You can’t stop me saying that these people were assassinated,” screamed 53-year-old Elena Petrova at riot police, her eyes wide with rage.

The events leading up to the tragedy in Odessa, a well-known Black Sea city of more than one million people, are still not totally clear.

Clashes intially broke out between pro-Russian militants and supporters of Ukrainian unity that quickly turned deadly.

Several combatants, reportedly mainly on the pro-Russian side, barricaded themselves in the trade union building, which was set on fire as both sides traded petrol bombs.

Horrendous scenes ensued as people scrambled to escape the building. Most were overcome by fumes and others died after jumping from windows in a desperate bid to flee the inferno.

Local health officials said 42 died in total, four from gunshot wounds and 38 in the fire, most from asphyxiation.

There were 99 injuries, 10 from shrapnel wounds sustained by gunfire or grenades.

On Saturday, signs of the panicked attempts to stay alive by those trapped in the building were still visible.

Blinds knotted together to create a makeshift escape rope hung limply from the third floor; a ladder rested under a smashed window.

“They killed our young people. They call them terrorists but it’s not true,” sobbed Elena. “They were just normal young people. They died for us. We’ll never forgive, it’s impossible.”