Ukrainian Jews Stirred by Anti-Semitic Pamphlet in East Region

Ukraine’s Jewish community was rattled today by an anti-Semitic pamphlet distributed in Donetsk, a city in the country’s eastern region where the government has been battling separatists.

The leaflet, purporting to be signed by Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic separatist group, said Jewish people were required to register with authorities, the Donetsk Jewish Community said on its website. The pamphlets were a form of provocation and the Donetsk People’s Republic had nothing to do with them, said Alexander Maltsev, a spokesman.

“What happened, of course, smells like provocation,” Chief Rabbi Pinchas Vyshedski said on the community’s website. “Who is behind this is an open question. But since this is only a provocation, it should be treated accordingly. Let’s close the book on it.”

The accusations of anti-Semitism add to an already tense atmosphere in Donetsk, one of the largest cities in the region where pro-Russian gunmen have seized several government buildings. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking after talks about the crisis with the top Russian, Ukrainian and European Union diplomats, said anti-Semitism in Ukraine is “intolerable” and “grotesque.”

U.S. Representative Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, urged Kerry to “do everything possible” to ensure that Jewish and other minority communities in Ukraine are protected, according to an e-mailed statement from her office.

The leaflets were handed out by three men wearing camouflage gear and balaclavas to worshipers arriving for Passover service last night, according to the Donetsk Jewish Community website. The men “vanished” by the time police arrived, it said.

“All I can say is that somebody is trying to paint us as the bad guys,” Maltsev said by phone today. “This is nonsense. We had nothing to do with this.”

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