Alexey Albu at a press-conference of the establishment of a committee for the "liberation of Odesa"
Though the first broadcast is planned for 1 February 2016, the film’s description and trailer were already widely circulated and have caused a backlash of criticism. Observers have noted the author’s ignorance of a Russian-backed conflict in Ukraine and distorted portrayal of the tragic fire in the Odesa Trade Union building on 2 May 2014. Moreover, the Representative Committee of the Ukrainian Community in France has officially stated that Moreira’s film mainly serves the function of reproducing Russian propaganda.
As noted by Halya Coynash, Moreira asked Tatyana Gerasimova of the well-respected May 2 group only for commentaries that would reinforce the Kremlin’s propaganda line, namely, of a “mass killing” perpetrated by far-right militias to pro-Russians in Odesa Trade Unions building, despite expert analysis that the fire in it was started by accident. He also chose to ignore undisputed evidence of disturbances provoked by pro-Russian activists, including the first open shooting which was opened by a pro-Russian activist and took the life of the first victim, a Right Sector member.
Ignoring the widely covered, if not flawless, investigation of the tragic fire in Odesa which took the lives of 42 victims, Moreira adapts lavishly funded Russian propaganda narratives to paint a sinister conspiracy in which far-right groups, abetted by the USA, are taking control of Ukraine.
Understandably, respectable specialists like Tatyana Gerasimova would give little support to this plot with their fact-based commentaries. But a Stalinist, homophobe, terrorist, and neo-Nazi ally (all in one) fits the role like a glove.
Enter Alexey Albu
Alexey Albu is a jack of many trades. Best known as the leader of the Stalinist organization Borotba, at the time of the Odesa tragedy Albu was a deputy of the Odesa regional council from the Communist party. However, by 3 March 2014, after the victory of Euromaidan and escape of disgraced president Yanukovych from Kyiv, Borotba‘s authoritarian views and unscrupulous operation caused the ire of Ukrainian left and anarchist organizations, which in a statement published on the Autonomous Workers’ Union disassociated themselves from Borotba, saying that “its members tended to be committed to the most discredited, conservative, and authoritarian “leftist” regimes and ideologies, which do not represent the interests of working classes in any way.” The statement went on to criticize Borotba’s cooperation with chauvinist, anti-Semitic, racist, clerical, pro-government, and homophobic groups, and its portrayal of Euromaidan protesters as solely nationalists and rightwingers.
Homophobia is rather one of many “left conservative” platforms for Borotba than a priority. Alexey Albu was an exception: he made an appeal to expel LGBT activists from left campaigns and attacked them and expressed his readiness to work together with far-right groups.It’s likely that Borotba‘s participation along Russian nationalists in the assault on the Kharkiv state administration and beating of people inside, which happened two days earlier, was the cause of the statement. 97 people suffered injuries, and during the assault a Moscow resident raised the Russian flag above the administration. Albu would go on to participate in unsuccessful attempts to establish a separatist “Kharkiv People’s Republic,” in line with Putin’s initial plan to dismember South-Eastern Ukraine into a “Novorossiya.”
It was also then that he publicly called for Russian troops to enter Odesa.
Albu’s support for separatism would grow, and as the “Novorossiya” project moved south, manifesting itself with pro-Russian demonstrations abetted by the authorities, he would take a very active part in the Odesa tragedy. On May 2, when a peaceful march of Euromaidan supporters escalated into a deadly conflict after it was attacked by pro-Russian activists shooting behind the backs of the police, Albu urged the pro-Russian separatists to hide inside the barricaded Trade Union building, never entering it itself, as noted by the Autonomous Workers’ Union in its second statement against Albu and Borotba, calling on international partners to severe ties with the organization:
“We see this as a proof enough for any left or anarchist organization in the world to sever any ties, either financial or informational, with this organization. By sending them money you will fund the civil war; by spreading their statements and supporting them morally you would contribute to their war propaganda.”
Indeed, in this video, Albu is shown exiting the burning Trade Unions building in a white shirt. No traces of smoke or soot appear on his face or shirt. “Did Albu know that there will be an explosion and gas attack inside the building? Did he know where to hide to keep his white shirt clean?” asks the author of the video.
For a detailed account of what took place on 2 May 2014 in Odesa, see: Timeline of events in Odesa on 02.05.2014
After being listed as wanted by Ukraine’s Security Service, Albu escaped to occupied Crimea, where partnered up with a leader of Odesa’s pro-Russian Rodina party and head of the Slavianskoie Yedinstvo far-right organization to create a “coalition to liberate Odesa.” This coalition would demand a “special status” for Odesa from Kyiv’s central authorities, just like the Russian-controlled puppet “People’s Republics” in Donbas.
Slavianskoie Yedinstvo (Slavic Unity) is a neo-Nazi pro-Russian organization standing for Russian nationalism and the superiority of the Slavic nations (Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians.) It is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and calls for a “spiritual-economic” union of Slavic nations. Its leader Dmitri Maidannik would change his last name to Odinov in honor of the Nordic god Odin, as Maidannik was too Tatar-sounding. An unexpected partner for a Stalinist? More was still to come.
Albu would continue his political career by joining the ranks of the Prizrak (ghost) battalion, one of the Russian-backed militant groups that have been ravaging Ukraine with war for more than a year in the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic,” an organization proclaimed as terrorist by Ukraine. It was a good fit – its leader Aleskei Mozgovoi was also a jack of many trades and views, managing an especially ruthless brigade of militants including a neo-Nazi famous for dog killings in his youth and who now practices his sadistic intentions by finishing off Ukrainian soldiers, left-supporters, monarchists. While appointing “communist” Albu as a political leader, Mozgovoi managed to wear a white guard uniform and condemned visits by women to pubs, harbor with the most diverse assortment of Russian neo-nazis and imperialists (a detailed investigation in German is available here).
Is it the testimony of Albu part of the basis of Moreira’s crusade to “shed light” on a tragedy only he considers underreported? Albu is barely in his 30s and directly contributed to the death of pro-Russian activists in Odesa who he claims were “massacred” by far-right militants. He is now the ideological supervisor of a terrorist organization featuring famous neo-Nazis. He has also overtly associated himself with the Odesa Underground / Odesa Fraternity organization, which has claimed credit for bombings in the city and still says it will one day “liberate Odesa.”
Whatever the answer, this film is not really a documentary and an investigation. Canal Plus should reconsider airing such a blatant piece of propaganda for fear of losing its professional reputation.You can sign a petition launched against the broadcast of the film.