The Jewish community of the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk asked for additional police protection after anti-Semitic pamphlets were distributed in the region, where the government has been battling separatists.
“Someone tried to use the Jewish community as an instrument of this conflict,” Chief Rabbi Pinchas Vyshedski told reporters in Donetsk today, adding that he asked for added security at Jewish cultural centers. “They haven’t done it yet because are too busy” dealing with other developments in the city, Vyshedski said. In a statement yesterday he said the incident “smells like provocation.”
The pamphlet, purporting to be signed by Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic separatist group, said Jewish people were required to register with authorities. They were a form of provocation and the Donetsk People’s Republic had nothing to do with them, said Alexander Maltsev, a spokesman for the group.
The accusations of anti-Semitism add to an already tense atmosphere in Donetsk, one of the largest cities in the region where pro-Russian gunmen have seized several government buildings. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking after talks about the crisis with the top Russian, Ukrainian and European Union diplomats in Geneva yesterday, said anti-Semitism in Ukraine is “intolerable” and “grotesque.”
About 40 leaflets were handed out by men wearing camouflage gear and balaclavas to worshipers arriving for Passover service two days ago, according to Vyshedski. Security services are investigating the incident, he said. Donetsk Jews are “not comfortable” with the rise of nationalism in the country, he said.
“All I can say is that somebody is trying to paint us as the bad guys,” Maltsev said by phone yesterday. “This is nonsense. We had nothing to do with this.”
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