The Summer Theater has recently become a sore point of Odesa citizens: the constant clashes of activists with unknown security guards, courts and protests – it seems that all this shouldn’t exist in a European city of the 21st century. However, sometimes everything depends not only on the desire of the townspeople.

The first protests of civil activists and concerned Odesa residents began when the landlord of the plot attempted to build an eight-story shopping mall and even received a corresponding permit from the State Architectural and Construction Inspection. However, the activists’ actions yielded the result. The developer had a trial against the Ministry of Culture but they didn’t mention the ambition to build a high-rise in the heart of the city. Since then, the Summer Theater has become an open territory.

However, in October, a local businessman and ex-comedian, Dmytro Shpinaryov, after negotiations with the developer, presented a new initiative: to create a concert venue in the theater. The investor should have been businessman Herman Kohan, whom local journalists consider to be the owner of the food court fair on Derybasivska street.

A new attempt to seize the urban space also met the resistance of activists. It was quite obvious – after the “liberation” of the Summer Theater from the trap of a high-rise, the location became popular among the citizens, there were numerous festivals, meetings, and events. Moreover, the activists assured that the project proposed by Shpinaryov includes an approach road to the Summer Theater, which, in its essence, ruins the understanding of the urban space in the center of Odesa.

Of course, Shpinaryov rejected this possibility. So, in December 2018, his project was presented at the Odesa City Council. Activists came to the meeting, offering an alternative to the city deputies. Despite the public request and the townspeople reasoning, the city council’s working group supported the project by Shpinaryov, so on April 10, the businessman’s plan was also supported by the city administration for the protection of objects of cultural heritage. Almost immediately people of Dmytro Shpinaryov began to work on the territory of the Summer Theatre.

There were numerous clashes between the guards, who were hired by Shpinaryov’s firm, and activists. Well, now it is quite difficult to get into the territory of the Summer Theatre. Activists emphasize that such work requires permission not from the city, but from the regional administration for culture. Shpinaryov didn’t receive such a document. Local officials also recorded the arbitrariness. According to them, any construction works need the approval of the scientific and project documentation, which wasn’t seen in the department at all.

Despite the arguments of the activists, officials and representatives of DABI, it seems that Shpinaryov, who is closely tied to the city authorities, doesn’t need permits and convinces the press that he’s operating in the legal field. The clashes with security guards and numerous protest actions seem a completely normal process for the businessman.

At the same time, the developer company, which cooperates with Shpinaryov and planned to build a high-rise on the site of the urban space, is closely associated with Volodymyr Halanternyk, the so-called “owner” of Odesa. The mayor Hennadii Trukhanov, a suspect in embezzlement of public funds, is also cooperating with him on this issue.

All this is reported by activists, and residents, as well as the people’s deputies, who have decided to intervene in the arbitrariness, which happens in the very center of Odesa.

“Mr. Halanternyk, together with the mayor of Odesa Hennadii Trukhanov, created an organized criminal group to control the city. The Summer Theater still stands only because of the protests, clashes and criminal cases,” People’s Deputy Mustafa Nayyem commented on the situation.

Well-known public activists Vitalii Ustymenko and Serhii Sternenko, on whom were made several assassination attempts, have also repeatedly reported about the cooperation between Trukhanov and Halanternyk. Thus, they were trying to kill the activist Sternenko for three times and there was no proper reaction from the city authorities or from local law enforcers.

Serhii himself characterizes Halanternyk as the master of Trukhanov and states: Odesa residents are still losing, the mafia wins.

“The main force are titushky, some security enterprises, and cops. Cops are on the mafia payroll again, what a surprise. They are joined by people, who in 2017 opposed the developer. The time has passed, and for some reason, they have changed their position.  Hopefully, these people, whom I know personally, will step back and cease to disgrace themselves and civil society.

But, friends, in general, we lose. Since the last big protest in the Summer Theater, they’ve started to knock us out thoroughly. Against some of us, they’ve opened criminal proceedings. The others were bought. Those, whom they could not buy, were attacked. They killed and crippled. Only the mafia wins in this story. Odesa residents are the ones who lose. If we don’t stop the mafia, there will be a lot of blood,” said the activist on his webpage.

Ustymenko also talks about cooperation, emphasizing that this whole situation is just an attempt of Halanternyk to return the territory of the Summer Theater.

“It was clear that they would try to convince everybody that their motives are noble. Why do we have to believe the city council that there won’t be another built-up Arcadia or Lanzheron? We’ve already eaten it. So we do not believe that the improvement under the auspice of Trukhanov-Halanternyk provides for the interests of society,” said the activist.

Therefore, the defense of the Summer Theater today is a sore topic for Odesa, which is lost among more global, all-Ukrainian news. While it is in oblivion, the appetites of the developers and the head of the city may only enlarge.

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