RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 5, 2014

TODAY: 42 pro-Russian protesters killed in Southern Ukraine, avengers storm police station; Ukraine blames Russia, Russia blames the West; civil war on the cards? Russia accuses West of blocking information; Sanpower group moves department store to Russia.

42 people were killed in Odessa, southern Ukraine, on Friday after a street battle ended with pro-Russian protesters being trapped and burnt to death in a blazing building (click for video footage); and in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian protesters attacked government buildings, apparently in retaliation for the deaths of those trapped in the Odessa fire.  Further retaliation occurred in Odessa yesterday, as militants stormed a police station and freed 67 fellow pro-Russian activists who had been detained in the wake of the fire.  Ukraine blamed the initial unrest on ‘foreign interference by Russian and Moldovan illegal military groups; President Vladimir Putin blamed it on authorities in Kiev and their ‘Western sponsors’.  The BBC says in fact that the seed of the violence that led to the firewas a football match’.  The European Union wants the deaths independently investigated.  Many sources are awaiting the announcement of a full-scale civil war in Ukraine – ‘a malevolent genie’ released by Vladimir Putin, as The Times puts it.  The Kremlin says it is receiving an ‘overwhelming majority demand for Russian help from people in Ukraine, which it may use an excuse to invade.  ‘[M]ake no mistake, Putin truly believes he’s entitled to reclaim Ukraine and a great deal more,warns the New York Post.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says Russia would like to see ‘a common interpretation of what is happening in Ukraine’, but says there is no evidence ‘that Europe and the U.S. are sane in their assessments’.  The Foreign Ministry goes so far as to accuse the West of imposing an ‘information blockade on the events transpiring in Ukraine.  The Guardian says the vast number of pro-Kremlin comments on its Ukraine stories in recent weeks indicate an orchestrated, pro-Kremlin campaign.  Putin remains in contact with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the need for resolution of the conflict.  The row over the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline continues.  Russia is to mark this week’s anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany with an enormous display of military hardware featuring all of its latest weapons systems.

The British retailer House of Fraser, owned by China’s Sanpower group, has announced plans to expand into Russia.

PHOTO: Women bringing flowers to a makeshift memorial in front of the trade union building in Odessa, souther Ukraine, where a deadly fire occurred on Friday, May 2, 2014. (Yevgeny Volokin / Reuters)