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May 12, 2020 3:12 pm

Ukraine Police Chief Orders Official Investigation Into Demand for ‘List of Jews’

avatar by Ben Cohen

Senior Ukrainian police official Mykhailo Bank ordered the Jewish community in Kolomyia to supply the names and contact details of its members. Photo: Official photo.

The head of Ukraine’s national police has ordered an official investigation into the widely-condemned demand by a regional police official for a list of members of the Jewish community in the western city of Kolomyia.

In a statement on Monday that suggested he was unaware of the mushrooming scandal until he read about it online, Sergei Klimenko — promoted to lead his country’s police force last September — promised a probe into the Feb. 11 letter sent by Mykhailo Bank, a senior police official in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine, to the head of the community of several hundred Jews in Kolomyia in which he demanded a copy of the community’s charter, together with “a list of community members with addresses and mobile phones” and “a list of Jewish students in universities of Kolomyia and Ivano-Frankivsk.”

In a statement carried by Ukrainian media outlets, Klimenko said: As soon as this information appeared on the internet, I immediately ordered an official investigation into this fact, because any manifestations of xenophobia and antisemitism are unacceptable. I’m sorry that this situation happened at all. That is why an official investigation will be conducted as soon as possible, the main purpose of which is to find out the reasons for the need to send a letter about the collection of data from representatives of the Jewish community.”

Klimenko said he wanted to assure Ukraine’s Jews that “we will not allow any manifestations of persecution of citizens on national or other grounds. All police units work to prevent antisemitic hate crimes, and in the event of these being committed, they respond immediately and focus their efforts on their detection and investigation.”

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Bank is the head of the Strategic Investigations Department of the National Police in the Ivano-Frankivsk region with a brief for organized crime. In his letter demanding the list from the Jewish community, Bank explained that his department was “engaged in the fight against transnational and ethnic organized groups and criminal organizations.”

However, Bank himself is the target of recently-leveled corruption allegations by Ukrainian parliamentarians.

A group of 40 parliamentary deputies signed an April 30 letter to Ukraine’s prime minister and interior minister urging Bank’s dismissal. The group accused Bank of illegally appropriating land around Ukraine’s popular Bukovel ski resort, and of blackmailing businesses by seizing their legal documents and then demanding a ransom for their release.

Meanwhile, other minorities living in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine have also complained of harassment and discrimination by government officials in recent weeks.

The treatment of the region’s Roma gypsy community drew a statement of concern from the US Embassy in Kiev on April 22, after local mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv ordered the forced relocation of Roma residents from the city to a rural location in the Transcarpathian mountains.

“We are deeply concerned about reports of discrimination and harassment of Roma individuals by the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk city,” the embassy stated. “We urge Ukrainian officials to speak out against intolerance and to ensure the protection of human rights.”

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