- POSTED: 07 May 2014 07:33
Andriy and Vadim: two young men from Odessa, one pro-Russian, one pro-Kiev, were both buried as heroes on Tuesday after dying in a bloodbath that has brought their country closer to civil war.
ODESSA, Ukraine: Andriy and Vadim: two young men from Odessa, one pro-Russian, one pro-Kiev, both buried as heroes on Tuesday after dying in a bloodbath that brought their country closer to civil war.
Andriy Biryukov, a 36-year-old plumber, died from a bullet to the heart while he was defending a barricade from a vicious attack by pro-Russian thugs wielding bats and iron bars.
His family says the fatal shot came from a sniper on the roof as violence in Odessa spiralled out of control on Friday and resulted in the deaths of 42 people.
Andriy's body was laid out as Ukrainian tradition dictates, in the courtyard of a building to allow friends and neighbours to place flowers in the coffin.
His wife, Albina, mumbles: "He was assassinated, killed by a coward hiding on a roof. He was a good man. A good father."
His two-year-son, white as a sheet, stays glued to the side of the coffin clutching a snuffed-out candle in his tiny hands. His grandmother tries to grab his hand to touch the body. He pulls away, scared.
The boy's mother, Andriy's ex-wife, howls like a wounded animal as she gently caresses the corpse's hair, her face deathly pale.
Sergiy, a burly 55-year-old with a white moustache, who fought with him on the barricades, wipes the tears from his eyes with his rough hands.
"I fought alongside him on the barricade we set up to stop them. Then I changed positions. He didn't follow me. I never saw him fall. He died defending his city. He's a hero," he says.
Four hours later and six kilometres down the road, the body of 17-year-old Vadim Papoura was laid to rest.
Vadim was one of the 38 people that died in a horrific building inferno that marked the culmination of a day of violent street battles between the opposing sides.
Maya, one of his schoolmates, hiding her tears behind huge sunglasses, says he was beaten to death by pro-Kiev hooligans as he scrambled to escape the blaze.
"He jumped from the third floor to get away from the flames. The fascists were waiting for him. They battered him to death. His legs were broken. They smashed in his skull," she sobs.
At the other end of the age scale, the anger is scarcely less raw.
Clutching a red carnation, 73-year-old Lyubov says Vadim was "a victim of Nazism, fascism, this illegal junta that has taken power in Kiev".
Another old woman says: "They beat and kicked him to death. They laughed as they jumped on his body. What sort of animal can do that?"
Pointing to Vadim's face, visibly swollen despite the best efforts to cover up the worst injuries with make-up, Rebik Minulen, the teenager's grandfather, sobs uncontrollably.
"Look how they mutilated him. It's not humans that did this. It's animals. God will grant us vengeance."
Both sides claim God is on their side in the battles that are rapidly tearing Ukraine apart.
At both funerals, incense balls swing, bells ring out and prayers are mumbled over the bodies.
Barely able to contain his grief and his anger, Minulen buries his face in his handkerchief.
"The world needs to know what happened in Odessa and what is happening in Ukraine right now," he cries.
"I defended this city in the Second World War and now our enemies are our own people. It's horrible."