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In Odessa, After 38 Burned to Death, UN Cites "Riots," Ban Sad at Violence

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 5 -- Six hours after the Friday, May 2 Ukraine debate of the UN Security Council, dozens were killed in a fire set by the Right Sector in Odessa.

   But when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on Saturday, May 3, he said he was "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives yesterday in violent clashes in the city of Odessa."

   Violent clashes?

 On Monday, May 5 Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson about it, video here and embedded below

Inner City Press: on Ukraine, with the events of Odessa where 38 some people were killed in a fire seems to be set by nationalists and those killed were pro-separatists. The UN human rights mechanism, are they going to look into this and try to determine who is responsible? I saw the statement seems to just refer to some kind of violence on both sides, but do you dispute that characterization of the event?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, certainly, we need to get to the bottom of all of these events. You saw that the Secretary-General did discuss his deep sadness about the loss of life in places like Odessa. We certainly hope that human rights monitors will be able to provide some details, but itís also imperative for the authorities on the ground to determine whatís happened and have accountability for this as they would have to do in any case where people have been killed in these sorts of demonstrations and riots and other sorts of activity on the ground.

   At the May 2 Security Council meeting, US Ambassador Samantha Power cited the January 15 US statement condemning January 10 violence in Kyiv.

  Then new Security Council president for May, Oh Joon of South Korea, asked if Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin's comments about a Council statement calling for an end to violence in Eastern Ukraine was a formal proposal or just an idea.

  When Churkin re-iterated it, Oh Joon said the 15 Council members' political coordinators will meet about it. But when UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant was leaving after the meeting, he said if Russia submits a draft among other things condemning the takeover of buildings in Eastern Ukraine, there'd be support. That seems unlikely.

  France's Gerard Araud on his way in snarked, "I am against violence, that is on the record" -- but contrast to the day before, when a $20 Q&A publicized with no mention it would be off the record was declared secret by Araud. Oh, well. Here's a piece on Oh Joon's Program of Work press conference, held like the UN's daily briefing during the Ukraine speeches.

  Back on April 29, Ukraine was the Council's topic after an already full day of speeches on another less than successful mediation, Israel and Palestine.

   US Ambassador Samantha Power cited "pro-Russian thugs with baseball bats."

  Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin countered that after the April 17 deal in Geneva, the Right Sector headed to East Ukraine and has not disarmed. He asked, why should the separatists?

  Churkin said the Vienna Document monitors taken captive had no proof of their status with them and called this a provocation. One expected a reply, perhaps from France's snarky outgoing Ambassador Araud -- but no.

  In Washington there is a controversy: when Secretary of State John Kerry told the Trilateral Commission about intelligence showing Russian involvement with the separatists, did he mean US eavesdropping or, as spokesperson Jen Psaki specified on April 29, Ukrainian intelligence?

  (That is, did the US "obtain" the tapes just as the tape of Kerry at the Trilateral, including the use of the word apartheid and Israel, was said to be obtained? The Free UN Coalition for Access supports and salutes that ongoing reporting.)

  When Ukraine's long time Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev spoke, he referred to Russian military vehicles up against his country's border, with signs in Russian and Ukrainian saying "Peacekeepers" - like in the Caucuses in 2008, he said.
  But when the meeting ended, he did not come to the UNTV stakeout as he used to do. Nor did Churkin, or Power. Tomorrow, Syria is the topic. This is how the UN works, or doesn't.

 And when the meeting was over one wag, not this one, asked who plays baseball in Ukraine? What are bats doing there?

  Back on April 28 when the US announced new sanctions on Russia, senior Obama administration officials or "SAOs" were asked about the stock price of Russian banks actually going up since they were not on the list, and if the US has given up on Crimea.

   On Crimea, one SAO cited the UN General Assembly's overwhelming condemnation. But as Inner City Press reported the day of that vote, there were 58 abstentions.

   The US officials were directly asked about France's still-proposed sale of Mistral warships to Russia, on which Inner City Press asked US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf on March 14. On April 28, one SAO said this issues wasn't in their bailiwick; a second SAO the Europeans are looking into this.

   At the UN, outgoing French Ambassador Gerard Araud has refused to answer Press questions about the Mistral. In France, foreign minister Laurent Fabius has said it would only be reconsidered if other European countries committed to similar losses for themselves, which seems unlikely.

   A questioner calling in from Moscow asked the US officials about the captive "OSCE observers." Since even one of the SAO had called them "Vienna Document observers," one waited to see it would be specified to clarify the record. But now. The SAO who cited "Vienna Document" observers said their mistreatment makes sectoral sanctions more likely. Well, four of the seven ARE German...

   This returns to the question of Russian bank stocks. Sanctions on the financial and energy sector are described as the US' ace in the hole. When would it be played? Would it? Watch this site.

Back on March 14, Inner City Press asked US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on March 14 about France's Mistral deal, about a pending UN Security Council resolution and an analogy raised earlier in the day by Russian foreign minister Lavrov: the French-run referendum that split Mayotte off from the Comoros.

  On the Mistral sale, Harf replied that ""Decisions about these kind of sales are obviously a matter for each sovereign state... We would hope that any country would exercise judgment and restraint when it comes to transferring military equipment that could exacerbate tensions in any conflict region.. That certainly applies here." Video here, from Minute 18:34.

  Hart said she would check if the US has discussed the Mistral sale with France.

   From the State Department transcript:

Inner City Press: on Ukraine, one question thatís come up is, in terms of sanctions is France has this big deal where itís selling Mistral warships to Russia, and itís said that itís going forward. What does the United States think of that sale of military hardware?

MS. HARF: Well, decisions about these kind of sales are obviously a matter for each sovereign state to take into account including a host of factors Ė obviously, international law, regional stability. We would hope that any country would exercise judgment and restraint when it comes to transferring military equipment that could exacerbate tensions in any conflict region. In general, I think that certainly applies here.

  French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who like his Permanent Representative to the UN Gerard Araud has declined comment on the Mistral sale, has said he may travel to Russia on March 18.

On the Mayotte analogy, Harf said "In general, it's very clear under Ukraine's constitution how this legally could take place... a countrywide referendum. She said of "any comparisons, they just don't have relevancy here."

  Inner City Press also asked Harf about South Sudan: Riek Machar's rejection of the proposed deployments of regional forces by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and of the Salva Kiir government's information minister saying that broadcasting interviews with rebels in South Sudan would be illegal.

  Harf noted that she had begun the briefing with a statement condemning crackdowns on the press in Russia, and that would apply here. But would it? Watch this site.


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