Odessa: growing shadows for a city known for light humor, deep tolerance

Even this Black Sea port, known for its tolerance, is seeing tensions flare over pro-Russian sentiments

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ODESSA, Ukraine — Walk up to the motley encampment of pro-Russian, anti-“Maidan” activists set up outside the stately, columned Odessa trade union building and the first question that gets put to an out-of-towner isn’t political or military.

“Nice building, huh? Want to buy it?” said the man, who gave his name as Vanya. “For you, very cheap. I could trade a bridge. Maybe the Brooklyn Bridge?”

It’s light humor in dark times and in a city like Odessa renowned for its dark humor, sharp wit and wily commerce, these are days of growing shadows.

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In Crimea, the Tatars fear a repeat of a brutal history

The past isn’t far away for a people who remember an exile forced by Russia and the decades it took to get home

BAKHCHISARAY, Ukraine — Fatime Saifulayeva is too young to remember clearly her first years in the frigid Ural Mountains village where her parents lived — and nearly died — after being deported from Crimea.

Local villagers took pity on Tatars like her family, exiled in 1944 on Stalin’s orders. They whispered to Tatar parents to register their children as being younger than they actually were, to save them from doing brutal hard labor cutting down trees in the Siberian winter. Locals taught the Tatars to feed their starving children watered-down moonshine, despite Islamic customs against alcohol, which warmed their bodies and gave small sustenance.

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Gunfight breaks out in simmering east Ukraine, with fears of more

Kyiv says one security officer dead, casualties on both sides as government security forces battle armed men
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DONETSK, Ukraine — Government security forces on Sunday battled armed men who seized a police station in eastern Ukraine, the interior ministry said, and thousands gathered to hear belligerent calls to arms amid deepening fears that Russia is preparing military action in the region.

The fighting in Slovyansk, about 55 miles north of the regional center Donetsk, appeared to be the first such gunfight in this part of Ukraine since the violent “Maidan” protests that deposed President Viktor Yanukovych in February.  Ukraine’s acting interior minister said at least one security officer had been killed and several wounded in the fighting.

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Eastern Ukraine erupts. Should we be surprised?

This week’s outpouring of pro-Russian sentiment in eastern Ukraine was long in the making, despite the apparent calm there after Crimea’s annexation.

By Mike Eckel, Correspondent

The Christian Science Monitor

April 9, 2014

Donetsk, Ukraine _ For many, the sudden seizure of buildings in Donetsk was as unexpected as the arrival of masked, armed soldiers in Crimea six weeks ago.

In eastern Ukraine, as in Crimea, a majority of the population is ethnically Russian. In many regions, such as Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovsk, loyalties to Russia also run strong, and distrust of the new government in Kiev runs deep. And as in Crimea, many ethnic Russians voice fears – exaggerated or not – of discrimination at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists who helped topple the previous government.

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Countdown to 48-hour deadline in Donetsk

Separatists occupying government building in east Ukraine given ultimatum to leave but instead dig in

Donbass, Donetsk, Putin, Ukraine, Russia

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Donetsk. The Тусовка Will Not Be Televised

Ukraine security forces take back one government building, but pro-Russia demonstrator hold onto regional headquarters

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DONETSK, Ukraine – Masked men armed with wooden and metal bats reinforced snaking barricades with sandbags, concertina wire and tires outside the regional administration building in Donetsk on Tuesday, while pro-Russian activists held a chaotic emergency meeting inside the ravaged building to declare a “people’s republic” for the eastern Ukrainian region bordering Russia.

Two days after activists seized the Donetsk government headquarters, thousands of people gathered outside the building listening to speakers who denounced the central government in Kyiv and whipped up the crowd with chants of “Russia! Russia!” and “Glory to the Donbass!” – referring to the cultural region of eastern Ukraine of which Donetsk is the center.

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