Influence of far-right being exaggerated?
Influence of far-right being exaggerated?Reuters

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Ukraine, Russian officials have insisted over the past several months - but local Jewish leaders say that life for Ukrainian Jewry is actually "safer and easier" than in the West. 

Shmuel Kaminetsky, a rabbi in Dnipropetrovsk, noted that anti-Semitism in Ukraine is much lighter than in Britain or France, where the threat of radical Islam is palpable. 

And while far-right parties in Ukraine have gained ground in both Kiev and Moscow - like in much of Europe - Ukraine's Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (VAAD) noted that the influence is small: the Right Sector and the Freedom parties garnered less than 2% of the people's support in presidential elections and less than 5% in parliamentary elections. 

The VAAD has stepped up its public campaign to dismiss rumors of rampant anti-Semitism in Ukraine, claiming it is a "political tool" being wielded by Russian President Vladimir Putin to justify Moscow's support for Ukrainian rebel forces.

In an open letter published earlier this week addressed to Putin, VAAD says Moscow - in fact - "might have confused Ukraine with Russia, where Jewish organizations registered a rise of anti-Semitism last year." 

Media coverage of a rise in anti-Semitic attacks on Ukraine's Jewish population climaxed soon after the February revolution in Kiev, after such events as the stabbing of the Deputy Commander of ZAKA Kiev and Hatzalah Kiev Chairman Rabbi Hillel Cohen.

In April, several more prominent anti-Semitic incidents made headlines, after Nazi-esque leaflets were allegedly distributed asking Jews to "register their religion" and a Ukrainian synagogue was firebombed. A band of pro-Russian militants also attacked a Jewish-owned bank, ostensibly over political differences. 

Rumors that the incidents were overhyped began stirring shortly afterward, after Moscow repeatedly leveled allegations of anti-Semitism at the authorities in Kiev at the height of political tensions, accusing them of being controlled by far-right groups that played a prominent role in protests to oust Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.    

More recently, Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, said at a conference last week that anti-Semitism is "much worse in France" - where anti-Semitism has skyrocketed by 91% this year and which has seen a mass exodus of the French Jewish community as a result.