Ukrainian crisis, Russian ships off the coast of Odessa: “If they attack us, it will be here”

from Francesco Battistini

Russian military “exercises” near the port. NATO: “Start of the naval blockade”

S.o over there. On the black of the sea. A few lights suspended in the dark. A threatening nativity scene. When it is clear at night they can be seen from the port, from the tips of the piers, from the storage terminal. And the camalli have learned to recognize them: the yellow beams of the Slavas, the bright flashes of the Kirovs, the dark silhouettes of the corvettes. Thirty ships, Black Sea Fleet, Russian flag. Set sail from Sevastopol, Novorossiysk, lost Crimea. Exercises, explains Mosca. The beginning of a naval blockade, accuses NATO.

«Today they are approaching», Gennady Trukhanov, the mayor of Odessa, scans the horizon: «They will be fifteen minutes away from us, no more …». Fishermen know that it is better to sail offshore, the Ukrainian Navy that it is good to patrol. And Trukhanov also understood that it is useful to organize: the other day he met in Kharkiv with the mayors of the big cities and with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who was addressing them in military uniform under the snow; then he ran home, he too put on an operational hat and a blue jacket with the words “Aeronautica Militare” in Italian. He flies for inspection at a meeting, as soon as he returns from the port he receives two experts sent by the German government: «The situation is evolving», he says, «territorial defense has been organized with Zelensky. He will give us a million dollars. But with the Germans we realized that the work will be very long: we have 353 Soviet-era air-raid shelters, all shabby. Only 85 are usable. The ventilation systems need to be redone, we turned to the Israelis, but these are expensive things… ». Too much time, and there is none. In these hours Odessa raises the alarm from yellow to orange, there will be a night curfew: “If Biden hadn’t told me, I never would have thought the situation was getting worse. But he is the American president. And he must necessarily know many details more than me: my duty is to tell my people that we must keep our eyes open ».

What if they came from the Black Sea? The war that does not exist proposes a thousand possible fronts. And this, the least quoted, is perhaps the most probable: “If something happens,” murmurs the mayor of Odessa, “It happens in the Donbass or here”. He was an army captain for ten years, something he understands when observe the Russian cruisers with their machine guns already drawn, without protective caps: “It is plausible that the attack by sea is at the top of the planes of attack.” Because the risk is theoci ciornie : May Putin give you a black eye when you least expect it and from where you least expect it. Just peer, then: on the steps of the Battleship Potemkinin front of the port, the escalation can be seen very well. Last week, people looked out on endless columns of trucks that got out of Kiev. They carried missiles, towed tanks, slow towards the Transnistrian border, where a good deal of the Russian army is amassed.

Odessa is the gateway to Europe, Turkey is five hours away, Moldavia about a hundred kilometers away: the first to know are the Syrian or Iraqi refugees, who pass through here to migrate better. But also arms traffickers, ecstasy merchants, mafia containers who have always found a safe haven. Odessa is Ukraine’s wallet, on the waterfront you can understand it from the Bentleys and Ferraris of some oligarchs who return, every now and then, to greet old friends between Monte Carlo or California. Odessa is Putin’s forbidden applethe pearl he misses to control the Black Sea: “Eight years ago,” says Attilio Malliani, a Calabrian who acts as political adviser to the mayor“When the Russians took Crimea, there was not at all that sense of anguish that we feel now, with all these troops at the gates.”

On the central square, a sign indicates the capitals of the world, Moscow is 1,136 kilometers away and yet it is already here in front, it has always been here. They speak Ukrainian almost less than English. After the anti-Russian revolt of Maidan, on the promenade they tried to tear down the monuments dedicated to Pushkin and Catherine the Great: rejected. Those over seventy still keep in their pockets the old Russian passport. Anyone who loves cinema, remember that Odessa was the Soviet Cannes, here the films of the regime were shot and presented. Even the suitcases of rubles have never been lacking: in one of the most beaten nightclubs by the odessita nightlife, those destined for the three million Turkish and European tourists who flock to the summers, the Russian owner (friend of Putin) has had himself portrayed sitting on a burinissimo throne of Plexiglas filled with bills, two million dollars to flaunt. Above, he had put a large writing: “My vernulish!”, we’re back. They are back, yes, over there at the bottom of the sea.

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