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Forensic medical experts complete identification of fire victims in Odessa

The southern Ukrainian city of Odessa will continue burying those who died in a fire in the regional Trade Unions House set ablaze by radicals a few days ago. Funerals that started on Monday were suspended because Odessa forensic medical experts needed extra time to finish the identification of 37 victims, whose bodies were found in burnt-out offices inside the building, and determine the cause of their death.

According to officially published data, five people were shot dead, eight died when they fell from a height in an attempt to escape fire and those who pursued them, and 24 people died from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. The death toll includes six women. Those who died were aged 18-62.

MP Oleg Tsaryov and a number of other Ukrainian politicians have already told journalists that the authorities deliberately understated the death count in fear of popular unrest. Local media said, with reference to unnamed law enforcers and forensic medical experts, that 72 or even 116 were killed.

The reports make the atmosphere in the city even tenser. The authorities have reinforced the protection of strategic facilities, canceled all mass events scheduled for Victory Day and taken other measures.

The parents of schoolchildren were told not to let their children go outside in the evening and teach them not to lift unknown objects from the ground.

Riots started in Odessa on May 2 after soccer fans who came from the city of Kharkov, as well as Right Sector far-right ultranationalist movement radicals and so-called "Maidan self-defense" representatives from Kiev organized a march along city streets that resulted in clashes with federalization supporters.

As a result, radicals set ablaze the Trade Unions House, where their opponents hid, and a tent camp where activists were collecting signatures for a referendum on Ukraine's federalization and for the status of a state language for Ukrainian. The authorities said the clashes and fire left 46 people dead; more than 200 sought medical assistance.

Ukraine saw a coup in February after months of anti-government protests. New people were propelled to power amid riots as President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave Ukraine citing security concerns. Russia does not recognize the de facto Ukrainian authorities, who appear unable to restrain radicals and ultranationalists.

The Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, held a referendum March 16 in which it overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and reunify with Russia. The accession deal with Moscow was signed March 18.

After Crimea's reunification with Russia, protests against the new Ukrainian authorities in Kiev erupted in Ukraine's Russian-speaking southeastern regions, with demonstrators demanding referendums on the country's federalization and taking control of some government buildings.

Kiev has been conducting an antiterrorism operation in eastern Ukraine apparently aimed to clamp down on federalization supporters. Russia has condemned the operation.

[Source: Itar Tass, Odessa, 06May14]

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