March 10th — Odessa braces for assault

  1. Today we turn our attention to the iconic statue of Armand-Emmanuel Sophie Septimanie de Vignerot du Plessis, 5th Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac. The monument to this legendary governor of Odessa, who was appointed in 1803 by Aleksandr I, has long been one of the most important symbols of the city. Odessans refer to the monument simply as “The Duke.” Many mistakenly believe that Duke de Richelieu was the founder of the city, when in fact he served as its governor. The statue of this far-ranging French noble was created by Ivan Matros, the famous Russian Neoclassical sculptor. The monument stands at the top of the legendary Potemkin Steps and was featured in Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” (1925).

If I’d seen this now-iconic photograph a year ago, I might have guessed it was an installation by Aleksandr Roytburd, the famous Odessa artist. An early death spared Roytburd the heartbreak of seeing what is happening to his beloved city.

2. Today Russian operatives kidnapped Leila Ibragimova, Director of the Melitopol Regional Museum. Armed people searched her house and removed Ms. Ibragimova by force. Her whereabouts are unknown. Leila Ibragimova is a deputy of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council and an active member of Azat, an organization advocating the return of Crimean Tatars to their historic motherland. Her abduction is just one story in the unfolding Russian occupation of the city of Melitopol.

Leila Ibragimova
Melitopol Regional Museum