Last night, I noted that staged takeovers of local government buildings in eastern Ukraine are
one of the shoes that everyone keeping track of the crisis has been expecting to drop (Odessa and the region that was known in the 19th century as “New Russia” is another).
This morning, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe reports:
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service quotes local media as saying around 100 pro-Russians attempting to surround a government administration building in the southern city of Mykolaiv were thwarted after police moved in late last night. There were several injuries in the ensuing clashes, which also pitted the pro-Moscow ranks against members of a pro-Ukrainian group. (From their liveblog 0923, 8 April 2014. Here’s the original report in Ukrainian.)
Mykolaiv is a city of about a half million people, a major shipbuilding center about halfway between the Crimea and Odessa, along the main road between the two.
Let’s hope the police and local authorities in Kherson are equally loyal to Ukraine, and equally alert.
Odessa, of course, is the real prize of the southwest, and not just for the nightlife or the film nostalgia. Odessa is also just a good day’s bicycle ride from breakaway Transnistria. These lands were conquered by the Russian Empire in the late 18th century, somewhat after the American Revolution broke but before the French. The Crimean Khanate had left them sparsely settled, and homesteading in “New Russia,” as the region was known, was a major development of the 19th century. Before World War II, it was a significant area of Jewish settlement. In short, the pretexts are there, if Russian forces want to meddle.
The second act of Ukraine’s test has only just begun.