Posted on 05 Sep 2023
Odesa is a city of immense importance to Ukraine. Its port is the gateway through which most of Ukraine’s trade with the world is conducted, but it also holds a deeply symbolic place in the country’s heart – the so-called ‘Jewel of the Black Sea.’
It has also long been one of the most criminalized cities in Ukraine, both in terms of illicit flows through its port (including drugs, weapons, and contraband) and the high levels of corruption around the construction industry, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and the customs agency. The city itself was also a stronghold of pro-Russian sentiment, even after the 2014 Maidan Revolution, which ousted President Viktor Yanukovych (who was politically close to Moscow), the conflict in the Donbas, and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. At the same time, the Russian invasion of Ukraine dealt a severe blow to organized crime in Odesa.