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December 16, 2013 10:23 pm

Ukraine’s Jews Caught in the Middle of Escalating Conflict

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The Euromaidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgJosef Zisels, the head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine (VAAD Ukraine), said in a speech Sunday at a huge Kiev rally dubbed the “Day of Dignity” that “men and women always desire one thing, independently of their race, ethnicity, or religion—they want happiness for their children.”

“Let each of us ask themselves the question: can we achieve this with the current government?” Zisels said.

Sam Kliger, the American Jewish Committee’s director of Russian Jewish community affairs, told in late November, “Ukraine is now caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they wanted to go West and to join the European Union; on the other hand they are pressured by Russia… to join the so-called customs union.”

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The Ukrainian government had branded the protesters as “Nazis and criminals” over the past several weeks, according to The Guardian. Last week, an official statement signed by both prominent Ukrainians and Ukrainian Jews, such as Museum of Kiev researcher and Executive Secretary of the Babi Yar Public Committee Vitaly Nakhmanovych, accused Ukrainian special forces of engaging in “Nazi-like” activities among the peaceful demonstrators in Kiev on the night of Dec. 10.

“More than a dozen young individuals wearing helmets with swastikas and armed with armature rods were trying to break through to Maidan and stir up a fight with the police. Fortunately, the protesters prevented them just in time,” the statement said.

“We urge the International Democratic Community not to believe the provocations of the security services, resolutely condemn the violence by the current Government of Ukraine and support the aspirations of the Ukrainian people toward Freedom and Democracy,” added the statement.

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