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May 21, 2014 10:02 am

Ukraine Asks Israel to Assist in Investigation Over Union Building Fire Deaths

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Protests in Ukraine. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The embattled government of Ukraine has requested assistance from Israeli specialists in an ongoing investigation into the deaths of 32 pro-Russian protesters in the seaside city of Odessa on May 2, Interior Ministry Chief Investigator Vitaliy Sakal said at a news conference in Kiev on Monday.

The victims were thought to have died in a fire that engulfed the union building where they sought shelter, but now Ukrainian authorities believe they may have been killed by chloroform.

“The cause of the 32 deaths in Odessa on May 2 was asphyxiation due to an unidentified substance,” Sakal said. “Chloroform was found in the debris of the Union House. Chloroform is usually used in surgery. We haven’t established why it was there.”

The traces of chloroform found in the building prove the substance was present for several days before the violence in the city that resulted in the deaths erupted, Sakal said. Officials are looking into how and why it was there.

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Another 10 people died after jumping out of the union building’s windows to escape the fire, which started after both pro-Russian, and Ukrainian nationalist rioters threw Molotov cocktails, Sakal said.

A total of 48  people were killed during the violent clashes in Odessa, the worst single daily death count since former President Viktor Yanukovych stepped down in February.  Following the deaths, Russia accused Ukraine of abusing Russian-speakers while the government in Kiev said President Vladimir Putin is seeking to divide Ukraine before the upcoming May 25 presidential election.

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