Ukrainian extremists ‘terrorize’ Greek delegates, disrupt meeting with Odessa minorities

Ukrainian ultranationalists belonging to the extremist Right Sector movement have barred a Greek delegation, including former high-ranking officials, from exiting their hotel in the south-western Ukrainian port city of Odessa.

Several dozens of Right Sector activists were blocking a group of Greek citizens in hotel ‘Duc’, in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. The Greeks had been invited by the local Greek diaspora to take part in a round table discussion, TASS reported.

The delegation, which according to the Greek Iskra newspaper included former Deputy Defense Minister Costas Isychos, former Deputy Finance Minister Nadia Valavani, as well as former Chairman of the Committee on Foreign and Military Affairs Vassilis Hadjilambrou and a journalist Aris Chatzistefanou, also planned to meet with the Ukrainian ethnic minorities living in the Black Sea region and NGOs as well as with some people from the city council.

However, the Greek delegates were blocked in their hotel by the Right Sector members, who staged a picket outside the building. The ultranationalists wearing paramilitary uniform alongside with masks and balaclavas were waving Ukrainian flags and holding banners and placards that read “Foreigners-Russophiles have no place in Ukraine!” and “Aggressor, hands off Bessarabia!”

A member of the Greek delegation, journalist Aris Chatzistefanou, described the situation around the hotel to RT.

“The delegation arrived [in Odessa] only to communicate with the [local] Greek minority and to ask about the problems that they face including whether [the activities of] the neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups have anything to do with their everyday life,” Aris Chatzistefanou adding that early in the morning on Wednesday they saw people wearing military uniforms near their hotel, most of which “were the members of the Right Sector.”

Former Greek Deputy Defense Minister Costas Isychos, who also spoke to RT later on Wednesday, said that there had been between 30 and 40 people wearing military uniforms outside the hotel at 9:00am local time that prevented the delegation from leaving the hotel.

According to Aris Chatzistefanou, the Right Sector thugs were demonstrating outside the hotel and “practically setting up a blockade.”

“…One moment they got violent, they tried to storm the hotel but the security of the hotel managed to keep them out,” he said adding that they wanted “to terrorize the delegation,” he told RT.

The Greek journalist emphasized that ultranationalists deprived the delegation of any opportunity “to communicate with the members of the Greek minority here in Odessa.”

“If you have about 30 people in military uniforms, you get the message: you understand that, if you continue [to do] what you want to do, they might get violent,” he commented on his impression about the Right Sector activists’ intentions adding that “it has nothing to do with democracy or… freedom of expression.”

Aris Chatzistefanou has recorded a video demonstrating Right Sector activists blocking the hotel and posted in on Youtube.

Costas Isychos said that the representatives of the Greek consulate who arrived at the scene at the request of the delegation were not able to pick the delegates up and the Greeks remained blocked in the hotel for four hours.

When the delegation managed to leave the hotel it turned out that the meeting had been canceled because of another Right Sector demonstration near the meeting venue, Isychos added.

Aris Chatzistefanou also stressed that the police officers who arrived at the scene had not been able to control the ultranationalists and did not intervene in their activities.

Later on Wednesday, an interim spokesman of the Odessa region police department, Andrey Kostiuk, claimed that the members of Right Sector had not disturbed public order and had not blocked the Greek delegation, denying that they tried to storm the hotel, as reported by RIA Novosti.

A spokesman of the Right Sector, Artem Skoropadsky, admitted that the radicals deliberately blocked the hotel in order to prevent the Greek delegates from attending a meeting with local minorities, although he claimed that the ultranationalists were not “holding” the delegation in the hotel.

According to Skoropadsky, the meeting that was dedicated to the issues of European integration was had really been “of a separatist nature,” reported TASS.

“It was a group of Greek radical leftists who wanted to hold a convention… We blocked the hotel to prevent them from going to this event, and we will do it again wherever they may come from," he said adding that, although he did not know the delegates’ current whereabouts, “they certainly missed the meeting.”

According to Greek media, members of the OSCE mission in Ukraine are also monitoring the situation.

“The members of the Ukrainian extremist group are constantly following the delegation and demanding to explain, for what purpose [the Greeks] came to Odessa,” former Greek Deputy Finance Minister Nadia Valavani told Greek news agency, as quoted by TASS. “Right-wing extremists are telling us that we are the enemies of Ukraine.”