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Voices from Odessa: 'Nobody expected this'

image copyrightIlhona Prihodko
image captionProtests spread to other parts of Odessa on Friday

When violence broke out in Odessa, Ukraine, on Friday, it culminated in a fire at the city's Trade Unions House that caused the deaths of more than 30 people.

The next morning, people in the south-western port city spoke to the BBC about Friday evening's events and the scene they awoke to.

There is still confusion among residents and visitors over the unrest - and shock that such things could happen in Odessa.

Ilhona Prihodko and Anastacia Brodvianska, students from Kiev, holidaying in Odessa

Ilhona: I was just walking by the shopping mall when I saw that it was on fire.

No-one tried to hurt me because I wasn't taking part in the protest but it was scary.

It is one district away from where those people died in the [Trade Unions] building fire.

The protests in Kiev were much larger, but this is still scary.

Anastacia: Russian soldiers want to conquer this part of Ukraine but the people don't want that.

The government in Kiev does nothing. I don't think they will be able to do anything about it until after the presidential elections on 25 May.

image copyrightAP
image captionPro-Ukrainians took to the streets of Odessa in the early evening

There was a football match taking place between Chernomorets and Metalist Kharkiv at 5pm. Fans from Kharkiv and Chernomorets joined together, fighting pro-Russians wearing clothing with orange and black stripes.

It was two blocks away from me. They were provoked by pro-Russian groups. There was a tremendous clash.

Later on, the fight continued two miles away, near the central railway station. There was a camp for pro-Russians. Pro-Ukrainians and pro-Europeans destroyed this camp. There was a building where the pro-Russians were and it burned down. I don't know how.

This morning it is calm. Odessa was always quite calm. Nobody expected this. Every week there are pro-Russian and pro-EU demonstrations. But this is the first time the protests have turned violent.

People are not supporting the Kiev government. This is a misleading element. The government is temporary. This is for nationalism; this is for unity in Ukraine, this is different.

There was a match last night. After the match I ended up in Grecheskaya Street, opposite the Greek Consulate. They had already started fighting. People started running and fighting, there was confusion.

The pro-Russians took over the [Trade] Unions House. I wasn't there. I know that afterwards both sides were throwing [Molotov] cocktails.

The Unions House was burning, even the Ukrainians tried to help people out of the building. Fighting then broke out.

image copyrightAP
image captionSome residents expressed shock, saying the city is usually calm

Yesterday I was hanging around in the city centre. In the afternoon, everything was fine: lots of tourists, Russian tourists, lots of people in the suburbs celebrating the holidays, not too many people in the city centre.

There was a demonstration for a united Ukraine by fans of the local football team.

As they moved, block by block, pro-Russians hit these peaceful demonstrators and they started to beat them. It was on Grecheskaya Street.

Pro-Russian separatists threw things at normal people and were using guns. At the shopping mall, pro-Russians were on the roof, shooting at people. The mall is surrounded by buildings and people were out on their balconies and were shot.

The Trade Unions building is near the train station, a few blocks from where this happened. There it was horrible.

The mood is very bad. This is a tragedy. The city is so calm usually. People are in hospital, I'm going to give blood.

image copyrightAFP
image captionFlowers were left at the burned building on Saturday to remember the victims

I was about five minutes away from the centre and not far from the burning building. Lots of shops and cafes shut their doors. There was a black plume of smoke from near my apartment.

A lot of the trouble was caused by ultra-nationalist football hooligans.

I was warned by my friend, a pro-Russian - she'd been to meetings - to stay off the streets. I'm neither a pro-Russian or nationalist supporter but on this occasion it does appear that the pro-Russians were more the victims.

My pro-Russian friend was in the group who were caught up with the ultra-nationalists and attacked. Some of her friends are dead, so she's pretty upset today.

I heard there were military snipers in the centre. The snipers were seen by another friend right in the centre, near the Afina Shopping Centre. She does not know who they were.

Interviewed and written by Richard Irvine-Brown, Sitala Peek and Ravin Sampat

Are you in Odessa? Did you witness the violence? You can email your experiences to with the word 'Ukraine' in the subject heading.

Related Topics

  • Russia
  • Ukraine