Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ukrainian Situation is Evolving

Off topic for this blog, but a very disturbing story has emerged in the Ukraine that I think deserves a lot of attention. It is being reported that leaflets with instructions to "register" were handed to Jews as they left synagogue following holiday prayers. On the first day of Passover this week, three armed men in the eastern Ukrainian province of Donetsk distributed flyers warning Jews to “register” themselves and their assets with the new pro-Russian government. The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of "Donetsk's temporary government," and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas. In interviews with local media Mr. Pushilin rejected the content of the flyers, and also denied that his organization was behind their printing. "Some idiots yesterday were giving out these flyers in targeted areas," he said, claiming that he had never himself used the "people’s governor" title.

According to Ynet's English report, the leaflet, written in Russian, reads:
"Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality. Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta," a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement which fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, "and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk, (the interim government) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic's territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register."
Steps are being taken to de-escalate the crisis. The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union reached an agreement at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland that calls for armed pro-Russian bands to give up the government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine and outlines other steps. But the agreement, described in a joint statement, does not specifically require Russia to remove the approximately 40,000 troops it has on Ukraine’s border as President Obama has demanded.

According to a report in The New Republic the Donetsk Jewish community dismissed this as "a provocation," which it clearly is. "It's an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry," says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. "I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid—this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east."

The situation with the leaflets was also discussed at the meeting in Geneva. Secretary of State John Kerry stated Jews in one Ukrainian city were were sent notes "indicating that they have to identify themselves as Jews."

"In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it's grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities — from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of — there is no place for that."

All parties at international talks on the Ukraine crisis Thursday unanimously condemned anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance, Kerry said.

Also, members of the Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine were recently threatened that they would be attacked in the coming days by members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kerry said.