Ukraine Jews to Russia: Your anti-Semitism Is Worse Than Ours

Russia, starting with Putin, has portrayed Ukraine as a hotbed of anti-Semitism since overthrow of its ally there, the BBC reports.

Jewish men talking before morning prayer at a synagogue in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine April 20, 2014.
Jewish men talking before morning prayer at a synagogue in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine April 20, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Ukrainian Jewish leaders vehemently reject Russian charges that their country is a hotbed of anti-Semitism, the BBC reported Wednesday.

Still, some of the leaders expressed dismay over incidents of "everyday anti-Semitism" and the presence of far-right wing extremists who are fighting in volunteer battalions for Ukraine, according to the BBC.

Russian President blamed "anti-Semitic forces" as contributing to the downfall of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February, and Russia has reportedly kept up the rhetoric.

Putin's take on the situation in Ukraine "did not match reality," however, according to a statement issued by the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine. The statement countered that Putin's advisers "might have confused Ukraine with Russia where Jewish organizations registered a rise of anti-Semitism last year."

Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky of Dnipropetrovsk, concurred, calling life in Ukraine "easier and safer" for Jews than in Western countries with significant Muslim populations, the BBC reported.

But Ukrainian Jewish leaders are far from satisfied with the overall situation. Yosyp Zisels, the director of the Jewish organizations association noted last month that some of the volunteers who fought "bravely" for Ukraine held views that are "Nazi, ultranationalist and racist," according to the BBC.

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