The Russian authorities continue to insist on the need for a thorough investigation into the death of tens of people in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2. Russian officials have appealed to the UN Security Council to achieve the goal.
Russia demands members of the UN Security Council should consider and analyze reports about the killings in Odessa as there is no OSCE reaction about the impartiality of the investigation of the Odessa tragedy.
"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent a message to the chairman of the OSCE, the OSCE Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary General and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, calling them to ensure impartial investigation of the events that took place on May 2 in Odessa," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
In Odessa, mass protest actions of supporters and opponents of the Kiev authorities were held on May 2. Clashes between the activists occurred during the day, on Kulikovo Pole Square, where the House of Trade Unions is located. Afterwards, a fire broke out in the building, where the adversaries of the Kiev authorities attempted to seek safety from aggressive supporters of the government. Molotov cocktails were thrown into the building, resulting in a fire that killed 48 people and injured over 200.
Originally, it was assumed that the people died from suffocation and severe burns. However, the details that began to emerge later suggested that the smoke and fire in the House of Trade Unions was neither the only, nor the main cause of death of tens of people.
Director General of the State Service of Ukraine of Emergencies in the Odessa region, Vladimir Bodelan, who participated in extinguishing the fire in the House of Trade Unions, said that even before the smoke started billowing from the building, the people were leaning out of the windows in an attempt to breathe fresh air. According to him, most of the people died in the building in mere seconds.
It was later suggested that the people died from chloroform exposure. There is no information as to how this substance appeared in the House of Trade Unions. At the moment, there are different versions pending. According to one of them, chloroform had been delivered to the building in Odessa several days before the tragedy.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who previously accused the Russian authorities of not withdrawing troops from the border with Ukraine, finally noticed first signs of this process.
As Rasmussen wrote in his Twitter, NATO noticed the activity of Russian troops near the border of Ukraine, which may indicate impending moves of military units towards the places of their permanent deployment.
"It is still too early to say what that means, but I hope this is the beginning of a full-fledged pullback," said Rasmussen. At the same time, Rasmussen noted, most of Russia's previously deployed troops are still close to the border.
In turn, the Kiev authorities have accused Russia of escalating the conflict in Ukraine and asked the UN to promptly convene a meeting of the UN Security Council regarding the situation, Interfax reports. Acting Ukrainian prime minister stated that the Ukrainian government was ready to provide evidence to prove Russia's activities in escalating the conflict in Ukraine. According to Yatsenyuk, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border on Ukraine was "bluff." He also said that the foreign Ministry of Ukraine sent a note to the Russian side saying that the Russian Federation was provoking escalation of the conflict. Russia tries to disrupt the presidential election in Ukraine, Yatsenyuk said.
In Moscow, an official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Lukashevich, called Ukraine's most recent accusations against Russia unfounded.
He expressed confidence that the proposal from the Ukrainian prime minister to convene an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on the issue would not be sustained. "If there is an initiative, then we will consider it, but I think this is an absolutely hopeless and insignificant propaganda event, which is unlikely to win support from the Security Council and other UN members," the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a press conference after negotiations with Chinese partners that he ordered to withdraw military units from the border with Ukraine to avoid speculations during the Ukrainian elections and create "benevolent conditions" for them.
Putin confirmed that not that long ago, "the Russian troops were indeed close enough to the border." He explained that he at first instructed the Defense Ministry to withdraw the troops from the border to range grounds in the Rostov region, not far from the border. Now the ministry received another order - to withdraw the troops even from the range grounds. Putin stressed out that Russia was "not shy" to keep the troops there. The decision was based on the wish to defuse the situation on the threshold of elections in Ukraine.
Initially, reports about Russian army units pulling back from the Ukrainian border appeared in late April, when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that he gave the command immediately after the Kiev authorities promised not to use the army against unarmed civilians.
On May 7, at a meeting with OSCE Chairman Didier Burkhalter, Putin said that the Russian troops had been withdrawn from the border with Ukraine to places of regular exercises, which could be easily verified through modern means of intelligence, including from space.
On May 19, before leaving for China, Putin's press service reported that the defense minister had been instructed to return the troops participating in military exercises in the regions that border with Ukraine to places of their permanent deployment "in connection with the planned completion of the spring phase of military training."
Officials representing NATO and the U.S. State Department have repeatedly stated that they saw no signs of withdrawal of Russian troops. Anders Fogh Rasmussen was tireless in saying that the Russian troops were remaining on the border. In May, officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry posted a bold comment in Rasmussen's Twitter account: "The visually challenged can read the statement from the President of Russia from May 7."