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Scottish Left Nationalists’ Plans in Ruins as SNP Plans Massive Cuts.

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Book that’s Spawned a Thousand Imaginary Communities. 

Left nationalist supporters of Scottish independence argue that the “breakup of Britain” will be  a major step forward for the left and the labour movement.

The nationalist Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) states,

The Scottish Socialist Party is built on social solidarity and the spirit of resistance to oppression, injustice and nasty con tricks that strangle communities and people’s lives.

Life can be better than this. We have the resources, the know-how, we could be building a world based on people, not profit. We can, and should, be expanding the public sector, because more and more of us need it, and it creates jobs and training, it holds communities together and it supports families.

We should be raising the minimum wage, because we can afford to do this, through cutbacks in the defence budget and the raising of taxes on the rich, and because it helps to build strong, local economies.

….

The Party asserts,

The single biggest obstacle to the Scottish people building a better society is the British State, the Westminster regime, the Crown Powers.

Genuine independence for Scotland can only come from a break up of the British State but until we get to that point the Scottish Socialist Party campaigns for a programme that can be achieved if our society is run for people, not profit.

Other nationalists even celebrate,

“the revolutionary implications of Scotland’s exit. Over three hundred years the Crown, the City of London and the Tories have been the hegemonic power. This will not be surrendered without a fight. But outside the ruling class and Scotland everybody seems pacified by the SNP selling itself as a safe pair of hands, ready to kneel before the Queen and Bank of England. Neither a post-independence SNP government, nor a Tory government in the rest of the country, will stop the impetus for constitutional change waking the sleeping giant in England and Wales.”

This will kick-start an Island (notice no mention of the rest of Europe) revolution, “….working people need more than simply defending themselves. They are hungry for a real democracy which gives them the power to change the future. If Scotland takes one step in that direction it is for us in England and Wales to take two or three.”

Steve Freeman. Republican Communist Network.

The ideas of the SSP and the RCN suffered a hammer blow this morning with this story.

The SNP government is privately preparing for the prospect of cuts to jobs, welfare benefits and pensions after independence, amid growing concerns that Scotland faces a bleak economic future, a leaked document has shown.

Ministers in Edinburgh have also accepted the Bank of England in London would still have a controlling veto over public spending after independence under the SNP’s plans to keep the pound.

The emergence of the report, which was presented to the ScottishCabinet by finance secretary John Swinney, comes as a former economic adviser to First Minister Alex Salmond warns in today’s Scotsman that such an arrangement would be little different to the existing “block grant” Scotland gets from Westminster.

The Scotsman Tuesday 29th July 2014

The Cabinet paper reveals the Scottish Government anticipates that in four years Scotland will have a “marginally larger net deficit than the UK”.

This means a bigger gap between public spending and the taxes raised to fund them.

Expected North Sea revenues are set to fall in light of recently revised estimates, the report says, and this will hit the nation’s prospects after independence.

“Given the relative importance of North Sea revenues to Scotland’s public finances, these downwards revisions have resulted in a deterioration in the outlook for Scotland’s public finances,” it states.

The country’s expected net deficit has more than doubled from £12 billion to £28bn as a result of these revisions, the paper indicates.

“This high level of volatility creates considerable uncertainty in projecting forward Scotland’s fiscal position,” the paper adds. “This would, on present assumptions about onshore tax revenues, require some downward revision in current spending.”

This is likely to hit services in Scotland, with a warning that “these pressures could reduce the resources available to provide additional public services”.

The paper says Scotland’s armed forces would have a “much lower budget” than its population share and the SNP has said this would not be any more than £2.5bn.

The report accepts that Scotland’s budget after independence would be subject to conditions and any government at Holyrood would “have to ensure that it remained in line with any agreement on monetary union”.

The SNP has attempted to brush this off saying that

that the paper has been “overtaken by events” with oil revenues having surged on the global market to $115 a barrel. Initial estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility put oil prices at less than $100 in the years ahead, but other forecasters have put it at $130.

But the Better Together campaign has responded,

The SNP’s oil fund will put your taxes up

In public the SNP tell us that an independent Scotland could have not one but two oil funds without the need for tax rises, spending cuts or extra borrowing to fund this.

Yet a confidential Scottish Government paper, which we are publishing today, makes clear that in private SNP Ministers are being advised by their own impartial civil servants that our taxes WOULD have to go up, public spending WOULD have to be cut or borrowing WOULD have to rise to pay for an oil fund. In fact, it could mean a combination of all three.

SNP Ministers aren’t just ignoring this impartial advice – they are doing exactly what this advice warns against.

We have also produced a simple document contrasting what SNP Ministers say in public with what they are being advised privately.You can read this here andshare on Facebook and twitter here

Read the Scottish Government’s paper, revealed under FOI law, here.

Looking at how oil money has been needed to pay for public services over the last 20 years SNP’s confidential cabinet paper concludes:

“If the Scottish Government had wished to invest in an oil fund, without having to increase its borrowing, there would have had to have been a corresponding increase in tax receipts or reduced public spending.”

If the SNP are being told this in private why can’t they just be honest with the Scottish people?

Speaking today, the leader of Better Together Alistair Darling said:

“This is the third time in a year that the SNP have been caught out saying one thing in public while knowing the opposite was true in private. The SNP have quite deliberately set out to deceive the Scottish public.

“Scotland doesn’t have to be faced with this choice. Being part of the UK means we have the strength of a bigger economy without the risk of oil volatility.”

By pooling and sharing our resources across the whole of the UK we are best placed to get the benefit from the North Sea.

So, one thing is clear, the SNP is as much as obstacle to left politics as the trinity of, “British State, the Westminster regime, the Crown Powers”

We hope that the left nationalists will not descend into arguing over the ownership of “their” nation’s oil as a way out of their problems – to avoid addressing the right-wing pro-market nature of any feasible ‘independent’ Scotland. .

But once you’ve gone down the nationalist road it’s hard to know exactly where you will end up.

For a detailed critique of how Scottish left nationalism is far from left politics and far from any form of critical left approach to capitalism and globalisation, See: The Break-Up of Tom Nairn?

Tom Nairn, Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom, Verso, 2002. Hardback, 300pp, £15.99. Reviewed by Andrew Coates. What Next? 


Two nations, two states! AWL Editorial on Gaza.

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Workers Liberty (the paper of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty) has just made a carefully weighed assessment of the horrendous Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Since the latest round of Israeli air bombardments of Gaza began on 8 July, around 200 Palestinians have died.

77% of have been civilians according to UN estimates. Many have been children

On 14 July, Israel ran a ground-troop operation in Gaza, and said it would expand its list of targets for bombing to include civilian institutions with suspected links to Hamas, the Islamist party which governs Gaza. Given that Hamas’s political infrastructure is substantially enmeshed with the frail Gazan state, this could include almost any target Israel chooses. Also on 14 July, Israel began a leaflet-dropping campaign instructing residents of northern Gaza to evacuate as it was preparing to widen its bombing campaign. Hamas has instructed Gazans to stay put.

On Tuesday morning 15 July, Israel announced that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt, but Hamas hesitated, and later that day Israel was bombing again.

Gaza’s economy, always sore beset by Israeli restrictions, managed to grow nearly 15 per cent in 2011 and 7 per cent in 2012. Hamas was also boosted by the Palestinian “unity government” announced on 2 June this year, which allowed it to hope that public-sector workers in Gaza would be paid by the Palestinian Authority.

However, since a military-dominated government took over in Egypt in July 2013, ousting Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi, Egypt has shut down many of Gaza’s routes to the outside world, and unemployment in Gaza has risen. The Palestinian Authority has stalled on paying wages: public sector workers in Gaza struck over that on 26 June.

Hamas wants to put pressure on Egypt and Israel to ease their grip on Gaza. Right-wing Israeli prime minister Netanyahu wants to keep Hamas off balance, and is under pressure from a growing far right in Israel.

The current conflict grew after three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftal Frenkel, went missing on 12 June in the West Bank. Israeli forces raided thousands of homes in the West Bank, arresting 570 Palestinians and killing several (5 by one report, 10 by another) in the process. The teenagers were found dead near the Palestinian town of Hebron on 30 June.

Far-right Jewish nationalists abducted and murdered 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir on 2 July. Hamas began a barrage of rocket fire, and has now launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israeli towns. It has also threatened to attack Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. So far, no Israelis have been killed. Israel responded by bombing Gaza.

No state, Israeli nationalists claim, should tolerate rocket barrages, however poorly aimed and ineffective, against its civilian population. That is the rational kernel to the Israeli case. But Israel’s actions go well beyond self-defence. Aerial bombardments of a densely-populated area, with an impoverished and essentially captive population, by one of the best-armed states in the world against are so disproportionate as to undermine the self-defence argument.

The Palestinians, too, have the right to defend themselves. Hamas rockets do not provide that defence.

Israel’s bombardments cannot be abstracted from Israel’s longstanding oppression of the Palestinians. Likewise, Hamas’s rockets are aimed at civilians and must be considered in the context of the social and political project of Hamas. Hamas is a clerical-fascist political party, which, despite the recent concessions to bourgeois diplomacy of some of its leaders, states its hostility to the Israeli-Jewish people even existing in historic Palestine.

Israel’s war on Hamas cannot possibly have a progressive outcome. While Israel continues settlement building in the West Bank; while it keeps the population of Gaza under semi-permanent siege; discriminates against Arabs within its own borders; and operates a regime of walls and checkpoints, it creates the conditions in which Hamas grows.

The only way out is peace. And, for peace, Israel holds all the cards. Ending the siege of Gaza, dismantling West Bank settlements, ensuring equality for Israeli-Arabs, and allowing the Palestinians their right to set up a genuinely independent state in contiguous territory alongside Israel would allow peace — and security for Israel’s people.

The hope for the future of both the Israeli and Palestinian people lies in the political potential of the Palestinian labour, women’s, and LGBT movements, and the potential of the labour movement and internationalist, anti-war left inside Israel. Those movements can provide an alternative politics for Israeli and Palestinians that cut across the nationalism and chauvinism of both sides.

That potential can be glimpsed in the demonstrations which have taken place in Israel, on 3 July and 13 July. On 3 July, thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding an end to the atmosphere of incitement and vengeance following the deaths of the Israeli teenagers. On 13 July, hundreds of anti-war activists, many from the Israeli political left, demanded an end to the bombing, and faced violent reprisals from far-right nationalists.

As Yacov Ben Efrat, wrote in the left-wing Israeli magazine Challenge following the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2010:

“Solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers is the only way to overcome the cycle of bloodshed. The supreme interest of the workers on both sides of the conflict is to build a political and social alternative, egalitarian and humane, against a right-wing Zionist chauvinism and an Islamic fundamentalism that are leading both peoples into catastrophe”.

This editorial would seem to be the right framework for any serious left-wing discussion of the issues this catastrophe raises.

Update (hat-tip JV)

This is essential and very depressing reading,  With the Oslo dream shattered, Israel must do the creative thinking. (Haaratz)

The Palestinians do not recognize the Jews’ right to a state, so Israel must take steps on its own to improve the atmosphere.

By .

I would add that this is significant, Le courageux combat des pacifistes et progressistes israéliens Israël-Palestine, Rosa Moussaou (l’Humanité)

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

Iraq: Qualified Support for the Stop the War Coalition?

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ISIS Islamic Justice (from Fightback, Marxist Journal).

A great deal has been said on the unfolding civil war in Iraq.

Tony Blair’s remarks, justifying past, and future, military interventions,  have, rightly, caused an uproar.

One of the most respected and reliable writers on  the Middle East, Robert Fisk, has observed,

How do they get away with these lies? Now Tony Blair tells us that Western “inaction” in Syria has produced the Iraq crisis. But since bombing Syria would have brought to power in Damascus the very Islamists who are now threatening Baghdad, it must therefore be a mercy that Barack Obama does not listen to the likes of Blair.

…..

Father Frans van der Lugt was a martyr of Homs, refusing to leave his Christian flock and Muslim friends throughout the years of siege, imploring the world to pity the innocent and the starving until, on 7 April this year, gunmen arrived in the church garden and murdered him. They came from the Nusra forces – the Assad regime called them terrorists, the opposition said, of course, that if Assad had not besieged Homs, the 72-year-old Catholic priest would not have died. He is buried a few metres away, his grave a cheap wooden cross surrounded by flowers. From a photograph, his bespectacled face stares at us. The Pope later prayed for Van der Lugt’s soul.

I suppose if the West had bombed Damascus last year – as Blair bombed Baghdad in 2003 – Father Francis might have lived. But then again, he might have been murdered much earlier by the Islamists we would have been helping.

Independent.

Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition has commented on Blair,

Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German condemned his discredited views and the airtime he was given to peddle them, including an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

Ms German told the Star: “Blair has yet again been given a lengthy platform to promote his demented warmongering.”

And she said it was precisely the bombing of the country’s infrastructures 11 years ago that lead to “disastrous consequences which are still playing out to the cost of the Iraqi people.”

Ms German called on Mr Blair to step down from his role as Middle East peace convoy.

She said it was a “a job for which he lacks a single qualification.”

Ms German wasn’t alone in her criticisms as politicians and the public piled into the ex-PM.

Former international development secretary Clare Short — who stepped down from her role over the invasion of Iraq — labelled her former boss as a “complete American neocon.”

Mr Blair’s opinions, she argued, were “absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong.”

“More bombing will not solve it, it will just exacerbate it,” she urged.

Morning Star. More from Lindsey German on the Stop the War Coalition site.

Socialist Worker, as one would expect, simply regurgitates the line that it’s all the fault of the Western Intervention.

Iraq’s spiral into a new sectarian war is a result of the occupation, and the tactics used by western forces to defeat the 2004 national uprising.

At the time, the US and its coalition allies sought to engineer sectarian tensions to divide a growing national liberation movement.

Perhaps they will enlighten us as to what this “national liberation” movement was, and where it has gone.

ISIS.

What stand then should or could people on the left take on the Iraqi tragedy?

Intervention looks set to exaggerbate the horrors: fueled by the conflicts between a wide range of forces opposed to the Baghdad government (and not just ISIS). Whether Iran and the USA will co-operate, and a host of other ‘whethers and ifs’ do not make other predictions about the outcome easy. There is also this important contribution to consider 7 Myths about the Radical Sunni Advance in Iraq which urges caution on the part of the West and a sobre approach to the threats.

In general, and in respect  to intervention, the Stop the War Coalition has got strong arguments  on its side.

But we should not forget who ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) (Arabicالدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام‎ ʾad-dawla ʾal-islāmiyya fīl-‘irāq waš-šām) are.

The Irish left journal Fightback sums up their nature.

The ISIS has its roots in the militias that formed the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda. Until recently it was a marginalised group within the Islamist movement which viewed it as too extreme. It gained notoriety for its brutal and barbaric methods of crucifixion and decapitation. It was mainly isolated to desert and tribal areas of western Iraq, where the disintegration of the Iraqi state and the backwardness of these areas allowed ISIS to gain a foothold.

…….

Over the past year, the group has rapidly grown. This, combined with the increased income, allowed it to take bolder initiatives. It is on this basis that the offensive of ISIS could widen out and develop a momentum. From fighting the Iraqi army in the desert and the tribal areas the group moved into the cities. Its success came as a surprise, as it is one thing to to roam around in war ridden Syria and an entirely different matter to fight in Iraq, with its numerically overwhelming army.

The real reason why they could do this is the rotten character of the corrupt gangster regime of Nouri al-Maliki, who has been whipping up sectarian conflict for years. His gangster methods and the widespread corruption has alienated layer after layer of the population.  At the same time poverty and unemployment is rife. According to the World Bank, 28% of Iraqi families live below the poverty line. In the event that the country would face a major crisis, such as the armed conflicts of the past year, the organization’s estimates that this rate could increase by 70%. Thousands of families literally feed on garbage and live in landfills and slums.

Whether, as Fightback asserts, ISIS is the “creation of imperialism” is less clear.

The Daily Beast claims the following, “The extremist group that is threatening the existence of the Iraqi state was built and grown for years with the help of elite donors from American supposed allies in the Persian Gulf region. There, the threat of Iran, Assad, and the Sunni-Shiite sectarian war trumps the U.S. goal of stability and moderation in the region.”

More recent funding has come from their control over a variety of rackets and their seizure of oil fields.

This and other aspects of ISIS and their leader, Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, are analysed at length by specialists.

One thing we can see immediate evidence of is the Sharia law regime they have established in Mosul.

Since taking over Mosul, members of the group have been handing out documents to residents, stating that Islamic law is binding from now on and which ban any contact with the Iraqi government and its institutions.

Police and security forces were given the opportunity to ask for a pardon, and the document stress that those who do not do so are likely to be given a death sentence.

Men will be required to participate in public worship and those who do not will be sentenced to received lashes, while women will be required to cover their faces and remain permanently in their homes and not leave them unless necessary, the documents state.

Robbers and thieves will be sentenced to death, crucifixion or cutting off of hands and feet. Carrying weapons is now prohibited, and the penalty for violating this directive is death.

The group has begun turning southward towards Baghdad, after conquering Mosul and several other northern cities this week in a lightning offensive.

ISIS rebels have also implemented Sharia law in areas of Syria which it has taken over. Steps taken include a ban on mannequins in shop displays as well as a ban on singing and dancing at weddings.

Al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist rebel groups in Syria have also warned citizens against “hurting the dignity” of the prophet Muhammad, threatening those who do so with execution. Here.

We hardly need to be reminded of their utter and undying hatred of Shias.

There are British jihadists fighting with ISIS.

One wonders if anybody will dare compare them to volunteers defending the Spanish Republic.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2014 at 10:55 am

French Front National, Eurasianism and Putin’s Russia.

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Pro-Putin French Far-Right.

This appeared in Le Monde yesterday.

Moscow-Paris-Vienna : the meetings and acquaintances of Aymeric Chauprade, Adviser of Marine Le Pen

Le Monde.  (Adapted Extracts)

The Eurodeputy for the Front National – Rassemblement Bleu Marine (RBM), -Aymeric Chauprade (wikipedia – in English), took part in strange meeting on Saturday the 31st of May in Vienna.  (Austria)

The meeting was called under the title of the 200 years of the Holy Alliance, which brought together Imperial Russia, the Austrian Empire, and the Prussian kingdom.

The event was organised by the the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, who is linked to Ukrainian separatists in  Donetsk in the Ukraine.

According to the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger,  this get-together was held to discuss how to save  Europe from liberalism (economic and political) and the “homosexual lobby”.

Those present included  Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the far-right Austrian  FPÖ  (allies of  Marine Le Pen),  and  Volen Siderov of the Bulgarian extreme-right party  Ataka  (with whom Le Pen refuses to work).

The most striking guest was Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin  Putin’s éminence grise  and Eurasian ideologue. (1)

M. Chauprade has already worked with the most radical wing of the Pro- Putin forces.

During the Crimean referendum in Crimea he was an observer for a NGO linked to Eurasian ideas, the Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections (EODE) (2).

This body is led by  Luc Michel, European National Communitarian Party (ENCP) (3), a red-brown groupuscule  that continues the work of the neo-fascist Jean Thiriart.

The EODE  observers came from diverse quarters, from the Greek Communist Party (KKE) Die Linke, Forza italia (qui  the Flemish far-right, Vlaams Belaang  and  Enrique Ravello of  Plataforma per Catalunya.  The latter had been a member of the  Cedade,  a grouping of Spanish neo-Nazis.

References from Wikipedia.

(1) Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin (RussianАлекса́ндр Ге́льевич Ду́гин, born 7 January 1962) is a Russian political scientisttraditionalist, and one of the most popular ideologists of the creation of a Eurasian empire that would be against the “North Atlantic interests”. He is known for his fascist views,[1][2][3][4] and had close ties to the Kremlin and Russian military.[5] Dugin serves as an adviser to State Duma speaker (and key member of the ruling United Russiaparty) Sergei Naryshkin.[6]

(2) Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections (EODE) is a Russia-based far-right non-governmental organization which on its website claims that it monitors elections.[1][2] According to its website, it specializes in the “self-proclaimed republics” (AbkhaziaTransdnistriaNagorno-Karabakh).[3][1] It is led by the Belgian far-right activist Luc Michel.[4] EODE’s other leader is Jean-Pierre Vandersmissen. Both Michel and Vandermissen are followers of the Belgian Neo-Nazi politician Jean-François Thiriart.[5][6][7]

According to Oliver Bullough, on its website the organization stated that “it shares the values of “the current Russian leadership and V.V. Putin.””[8]

EODE visited Crimea during the 2014 Crimean referendum international observer team and claimed that the referendum was conducted in a legitimate manner.[9][10]

The organization has offices in Moscow, Paris, Brussels, Sochi and Chișină

(3)The Parti communautaire national-européen (PCN) is a Belgium-based political organisation led by Luc Michel, a former member of the Neo-Nazi FANE party. A largely National Bolshevik movement, it also has activists in France.[1]

The PCN was founded in 1984 as a successor to the similar Parti Communautaire Européen. The party bases its ideas on those of Jean-François Thiriart,[1] who served as an advisor to Michel for a time after the foundation of the group, and seeks the creation of a single European state stretching entity from Russia to the Atlantic coast. Including activists with origins on both the far right and far left, it seeks to liberate Europe from its ‘Yankee and Zionist enemies’.[2] Its founding membership included both those whose background was neo-fascism and former Maoists.[3] It has also been noted for giving support to controversial world leaders, most notably Iraq‘s Saddam Hussein and Libya‘s Muammar al-Gaddafi.[4] It also declared its support for ecologism.[5] According to Eric Rossi PCN belongs to a strand of the Francophone far right that he identifies as “ethno-differentialist revolutionary nationalism”, in which he also includes Nouvelle Résistance, Groupe Union Défense, Troisième voie and Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne. He contrasts this with the “exclusivist nationalists” (as represented by Œuvre française) and the “supremacist racialist nationalists” (Fédération d’action nationale et européenne and Parti nationaliste français et européen), although including all three groups within a wider model of neo-fascism.[6]

The party has, from time to time, contested elections in Belgium and France (without securing elected office), although at the last Belgian elections they told their supporters to vote for the Vlaams Belang.

Comment.

It is becoming clearer what Searchlight and Gerry Gable are talking about.

Odessa: 31 people choked to death on smoke or were killed when jumping out of windows after the trade union building was set on fire.

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  A protester throws a petrol bomb at the trade union building in Odessa

A protester throws a petrol bomb at the trade union building in Odessa:

“Unclear” cause of Fire, says Radio France. 

The Voice of America has described this crime as follows,

Dozens of people were killed in a fire and others were shot dead when fighting between pro- and anti-Russian groups broke out on the streets of Odessa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast on Friday, opening a new front in a conflict that has split the country.

A revised Ukrainian government statement said the fire broke out in a trade union building, and that 31 bodies were found at the scene – seven fewer than police first reported. Most of the victims were apparently members of pro-Russian groups.

So a “fire” just “broke out”.

An even more weaselly-worded report on France-Inter this morning described fighting in Odessa between “pro-Russian” and “pro-European” backers of Kiev. The French radio station claimed that the “pro-Russians” attacked the “pro-Kiev” marchers, who were mainly “football supporters”.

The burning to death of 39 protesters in the Trade Union building was described as follows,

Dans la soirée, les pro-russes se sont barricadés dans la Maison des Syndicats, qui a pris feu dans des circonstances peu claires alors qu’il était assiégé par les pro-Européens : 31 personnes sont mortes intoxiquées par les fumées ou se sont tuées en sautant par les fenêtres.

In the evening, the pro-Russians barricaded themselves in the House of Trade Unions, which caught fire in unclear circumstances while being besieged by the pro-Europeans: 31 people died poisoned by fumes or were killed jumping through windows.

Radio France.

The Guardian is more even-handed.

More than 30 people were killed in violent and chaotic clashes in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on Friday as pro-Ukraine activists stormed a building defended by protesters opposed to the current government in Kiev and in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Odessa’s large Soviet-era trade union building was set alight on Friday as the pro-Ukraine activists mounted an assault as dusk fell. Police said at least 31 people choked to death on smoke or were killed when jumping out of windows after the trade union building was set on fire.

Bodies lay in pools of blood outside the main entrance as explosions from improvised grenades and molotov cocktails filled the air. Black smoke from the building and a burning pro-Russia protest camp wreathed the nearby square.

Pro-Russia fighters mounted a last-ditch defence of the burning building, throwing masonry and petrol bombs from the roof on to the crowd below.

Medics at the scene said the pro-Russia fighters were also shooting from the roof. At least five bodies with bullet wounds lay on the ground covered by Ukraine flags as fire engines and ambulances arrived at the scene.

Some people fell from the burning building as they hung on to windowsills in an attempt to avoid the fire that had taken hold inside. Pro-Ukraine protesters made desperate efforts to reach people with ropes and improvised scaffolding.

“At first we broke through the side, and then we came through the main entrance,” said one pro-Ukrainian fighter, 20, who said he was a member of the extreme nationalist group Right Sector.

“They had guns and they were shooting … Some people jumped from the roof, they died obviously,” he said.

Riot police arrived on the scene as hand-to-hand fighting was already under way inside, but did not enter the building and stood formed up in ranks outside.

The Guardian.

 Russia Today reports,

39 anti-government activists have died in a fire at Odessa’s Trade Unions House. Some burned to death, while others suffocated or jumped out of windows, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry reported. The building was set ablaze by pro-Kiev radicals.
A total of 46 people have died in Odessa’s violence on Friday and almost 200 others have sustained injuries, Odessa Region prosecutor Igor Borshulyak told journalists on Saturday.

39 of the dead lost their lives in the fire at the Odessa Trade Unions House, according to the Ukrainian emergencies agency.

31 of the dead were found inside the building, eight more were found outside by law enforcement officers,” the agency’s statement reads.

Police detained over 130 people following Friday’s bloody clashes and opened up 10 criminal investigations with charges including premeditated murder and violence against law enforcement officers.

According to the ministry, the Friday standoff on Odessa included “anti-Maidan” activists on one side and “football fans” from Odessa and Kharkov, as well as “euro-Maidan” activists, on the other. A criminal case on the charges of mass unrest has been opened.

This article on the mounting conflict is well worth looking at: The Great Game of Oligarchs. Behind the Ukraine conflict are post-Soviet billionaires often residing in London, says SOLOMON HUGHES

Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm