May 5, 2014 - 11:48 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A group of pro-Russia activists has stormed the police headquarters in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa and released scores of prisoners detained at the scene of deadly violence on Friday, May 2, that culminated in people being burned alive in a trade union building, the Guardian reports.
In the pouring rain, men armed with clubs battered their way into the building through a vehicle entrance.
Ranks of riot police offered no resistance. When crowds burst into the compound and began smashing windows and wrecking police vans, officers agreed to release the activists.
Men and women, many in tears, emerged from the door of their cell block and left through a tunnel of cheering supporters. Local police said later that 67 people were set free.
During the fire at Odessa's Trade Unions House people died instantly, having been poisoned by an unidentified substance, the UNIAN news agency reported on Saturday.
“Many people died by jumping from the fourth and fifth floors, while others died of carbon monoxide or burned to death…I was at the accident scene and saw a great number of dead people. It was evident that they died instantly, very quickly,” the agency quoted Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema as saying, according to RIA Novosti.
“This means that some substance burned which generated gas and this gas quickly affected people who lost consciousness and died on the spot,” Yarema told journalists at a briefing in Odessa.
He said the examination of bodies will be carried out to identify the gas.
Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the BBC there would be a "full, comprehensive and independent investigation" into Friday's events.
Yatsenyuk said the security service and law enforcement office had done "nothing to stop this crackdown", saying they were "inefficient and they violated the law".
The police chief of the Odessa region had been removed, he said, and the prosecutor's office had started an investigation into "every single police officer".
Asked about pro-Russian groups who have taken over many buildings in towns in the east, Yatsenyuk said: "We haven't entirely lost the control... much will depend on the local population, whether they support peace and security."
Meanwhile, fears of an impending offensive by Ukrainian forces are growing in the pro-Russian stronghold of Sloviansk, sources inside the city say.
Ukraine's army cut off the main road into the city on Sunday, squeezing its hold on rebel fighters. A reporter inside Sloviansk told the BBC that residents expect the city to be stormed.
Ukrainian troops are currently carrying out what the Kyiv government calls "anti-terror" operations in the east to wrest control of government buildings from pro-Russia activists.