Stories appearing on several Ukrainian Web sites claim Israel has brought around some 25,000 Ukrainian children into the country over the past two years in order to harvest their organs.

The claim, which was made by a Ukrainian philosophy professor and author at a pseudo-academic conference in Kiev five days ago, is the latest expression of a wave of anti-Semitism in the country. It comes a few months after a Swedish tabloid ran an article alleging that Israel Defense Forces soldiers have killed Palestinian civilians for their organs.

Jews, Israel and anti-Semitism have become a major motif of the presidential election campaign in Ukraine, with some figures making anti-Semitic statements and others condemning them. Some candidates, including a Jew and someone whose rivals claim is Jewish, blame a third rival - Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko - for bringing anti-Semitism into the race.

"Ukraine's political system is a parody of democracy," Russia's Chief Rabbi, Berel Lazar, said.

Vyacheslav Gudin told the estimated 300 attendees of the Kiev conference a detailed story about a Ukrainian man's fruitless search for 15 children who had been adopted in Israel. The children, Gudin said, had clearly been taken by Israeli medical centers, where they were used for "spare parts." Gudin said it was essential that all Ukrainians be made aware of the genocide Israel was perpetrating.

The conference, some of whose participants belong to a Slavic-rights movement, also featured two professors who presented a book blaming "the Zionists" for the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s as well as the country's current condition.

Many Ukrainian Web sites covered the speeches without putting them into context. In response to a request by the country's Jewish community Ukraine's police force is investigating ZUBR, one of the Web sites that reported the speeches.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians demonstrated outside the Israeli Embassy in Kiev on Tuesday to protest a letter signed by 26 Knesset members condemning what they described as anti-Semitic remarks by presidential candidate Sergey Ratushnyak. Protesters chanted "Ukraine isn't the Gaza Strip," indicating they consider the MKs to be trying to exert control over their country.

The letter, sent to Ukrainian leaders last month, articulated fear of a new "wave of anti-Semitism in the Ukraine that has come to a peak with the authorization of Ratushnyak, the current mayor of Uzhgorod, to run for president." In his mayoral campaign Ratushnyak blamed the Holocaust on the Jews, saying they stole German property, and warned of the same thing happening in Ukraine.

Although the protesters did not describe themselves as Ratushnyak supporters, photographs of the demonstration were posted on the candidate's Web site shortly after the protest.