The Jewish community of the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa is prepared for mass evacuation, should violence re-erupt there, according to a Monday report by Russia Today.
Clashes between anti-government and pro-government activists in the past weeks culminated in the deaths on Friday of dozens of pro-Russian militants, most of whom burned to death in a building that they retreated into after a pitched street battle with pro-Maidan militants.
Rabbi Avraham Wolf, representing the Chabad hassidic community, said they are taking extra security measures, such as posting armed guards, and are prepared for a possible evacuation. Together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, they have prepared a fleet of 70 buses, fueled and ready to go, if evacuation of the Chabad community is deemed unavoidable.
A Holocaust memorial to more than 25,000 Odessa Jews massacred under Nazi occupation was desecrated in mid-April along with a Jewish cemetery, as unidentified attackers painted them with swastikas, death threats against Jews and radical Right Sector symbols.
Anti-Semitism in Ukraine also made the headlines last month after masked people in Donetsk distributed leaflets demanding that all adult Jews register and pay money to the authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the political body of anti-government protesters in the eastern-Ukrainian region.
Rabbi Wolf said before the Pesach holiday that the 30,000-member Jewish community in Odessa would not let any provocation, including anti-Semitism, distract it from preparations for the holiday. At the same time, he said that the community was devoting many resources to security and was in contact with security forces.
Rabbi Wolf's words came against the backdrop of anti-Jewish graffiti on dozens of buildings and media incitement against Jewish businessmen. He said the incidents were the result of outside agitation.