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Daily Israel Report

Neo-Nazism Raging in Ukraine?

Amidst reports that pamphlets calling for Jews to 'register' are a hoax, Ukrainian PM vows to 'bring perpetrators to justice.'
By Uzi Baruch
First Publish: 4/20/2014, 7:03 AM / Last Update: 4/20/2014, 7:09 AM

Pro-Russia militiamen in Donetsk, Ukraine
Pro-Russia militiamen in Donetsk, Ukraine
Reuters

Ukraine's prime minister voiced outrage at reports that masked men in east Ukraine's main city handed out leaflets demanding Jews register or be expelled, NBC News reported Saturday.

Members of the Jewish community in the pro-Russian protest hub of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine said Friday that they were left shaken by the distribution of tracts demanding the registration of Jews.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he wanted to "make a clear statement and urge the Ukrainian military and security forces and Ukrainian Department of Homeland Security urgently to find these bastards and to bring them to justice," he said in excerpts of an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" to air in full on Sunday.

The incident happened as around 20 Jews were leaving the synagogue earlier this week. The three hooded men handing out the pamphlets were carrying a Russian flag and the symbol of the separatist Republic of Donetsk.

Reports of the anti-Semitic tracts sparked international concern, with US Secretary of State John Kerry branding the distribution of the pamphlets as "grotesque" and US President Barack Obama expressing "disgust."

But responding to the incident, Denis Pushilin, the pro-Russian protest leader whose signature was on the documents, strenuously denied that he had anything to do with the demands.    

"The documents were handed out in our name but this was a provocation. My signature was forged," Pushilin said at a press conference on Friday.

Senior Jewish leaders in the region seemed to accept that the appearance of the anti-Semitic literature was likely designed to inflame tensions in Kiev's shadowy struggle against the eastern separatists.

"What happened of course smells of a provocation. As to who is behind it - that is an open question," the region's chief rabbi Pinkhas Vyshedski said.

But reports of the anti-Semitic tracts sparked international concern with US Secretary of State John Kerry branding the distribution of the pamphlets as "grotesque".    

"In the year 2014, after all of the miles travelled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it's grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable," Kerry said on Thursday.    

The head of the World Jewish Congress urged all sides in the conflict to refrain from using anti-Semitic propaganda to further political goals.  

"All sides must ensure that any form of anti-Semitism is condemned and fought vigorously. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian Jewish community is caught up in a situation for which it bears no responsibility, and it needs to be protected against unfair attacks, no matter where they may come from," said WJC President Ronald Lauder in a statement.    

Moscow has repeatedly levelled allegations of anti-Semitism at the authorities in Kiev, accusing them of being controlled by far-right groups that played a prominent role in protests to oust Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.    

The unrest in Ukraine has brought with it a rise in anti-Semitic attacks on the region's Jewish population, highlighted by such events as the stabbing of the Deputy Commander of ZAKA Kiev and Hatzalah Kiev Chairman Rabbi Hillel Cohen.

Tzvi Magen, the former Israeli ambassador to Russia, told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday night that Russia is orchestrating the confrontations in an attempt to seize greater control over Ukraine