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'My personal tragedy': Ukrainians brace for attack on Odesa

Rogue Valley

Ruscism = Russian fascism
DP Veteran
Apr 18, 2013
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'My personal tragedy': Ukrainians brace for attack on Odesa


ODESA, Ukraine (AP) — The Black Sea port of Odesa is mining its beaches and rushing to defend its cultural heritage from a feared Mariupol-style fate in the face of growing alarm that the strategic city might be next as Russia attempts to strip Ukraine of its coastline. The multi-cultural jewel, dear to Ukrainian hearts and even Russian ones, would be a hugely strategic win for Russia. It is the country’s largest port, crucial to grain and other exports, and headquarters for the Ukrainian navy. Bombardment from the sea last weekend further raised worries that the city is in Russia's sights. Residents say Russian President Vladimir Putin would be insane to take Odesa with the brutal approach that has left other Ukrainian cities in ruins. Once a gilded powerhouse of the Russian empire, Odesa includes one of the finest opera houses in Europe and the famed Potemkin Steps between the city and the sea, featured in Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent film masterpiece “Battleship Potemkin.” But after a month of grueling war, people say they can’t predict anything anymore. “The only thing we’re really afraid of is that the other side has no principles whatsoever,” said Valerii Novak, a local businessman. He never considered himself a Ukrainian patriot, but when Russia invaded, something “just clicked” in him. He has refused to leave Odesa and joined thousands of people in basic training in how to use a gun.

Now he and other Odesa residents watch Russian warships move closer, in provocation. Western officials call the Russian ships a mix of surface combatants and the kinds used to put naval infantry ashore. he uncertainty adds to the anxiety in Odesa, where the initial panic has been followed by a wary calm. Some residents are pitching in to strengthen the city’s defenses. On an unmined beach, sea captain Sivak Vitaliy joined others in packing sandbags for barricades. “We will win,” he said, no matter how ghastly Russia’s invasion has become in cities like Maruipol or Kharkiv. Ukrainian authorities assert that Russia appears to lack forces to quickly press an offensive on Odesa as its marine units are busy to the east with the siege of Mariupol, where they have suffered heavy losses. Russia’s invasion has created a wave of pro-Ukraine sentiment in a city whose population has shown significant pro-Russia feelings in the recent past. Shelest and other residents noted a survey published this month in which more than 90% of Odesa residents said they wanted to remain part of Ukraine. “Nobody wants to be part of Russia anymore,” said Natalia Vlasenko, a local tour guide. She called any destruction of Odesa “my personal tragedy” and described a life of walking the streets of her great-grandparents and not wanting to leave. The city, “it’s a gem.”

Having lived for a year in Odesa, it's destruction would truly be a terrible blow. Odesa is one of the most inviting and beautiful cities in all of Europe.
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