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July 29, 2022 12:12 pm
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Ukraine Jews Call for Prosecution of Former Kyiv City Councillor Who Promoted Antisemitic ‘Blood Libel’

avatar by Ben Cohen

Hasidic Jews praying at the historic synagogue in Uman, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters/Teun Voeten

Ukraine’s Jewish community has called for a former deputy on the Kyiv city council to be prosecuted for promoting antisemitism, following a Facebook post in which he accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder.

In an official statement on Tuesday, the United Jewish Communities of Ukraine urged that Mykhailo Kovalchuk face legal action for a post he wrote last Sunday invoking the baseless “blood libel” charge that Jews, who are prohibited from consuming blood, slaughter non-Jews for their religious rites.

Asserting that “Satanism is a form of Judaism,” Kovalchuk stated that “some orthodox Jews practice ritual murder of people, most often their victims are small children, children of non-Jews (goyim).”

He accused Jews of gaining “money and power over other peoples … they do not care what will happen to them after death.” He also quoted pointedly from the Gospel of John in the Christian Bible: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

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In its statement, the Jewish community argued that Kovalchuk had violated Article 161 of Ukraine’s criminal code, which prohibits “false, inhumane, demonizing or stereotypical statements about Jews.”

“Such statements are unacceptable in united Ukraine, and even more so during martial law and from a deputy of the city council,” the statement argued.

A politician who supports the right-wing Batkivshchyna (“Fatherland “) Party of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Kovalchuk is no stranger to controversy. Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, he was recalled from his position on the Kyiv city council for a different post on Facebook, this time claiming that the mobilization of Ukrainian troops had no legal standing since Ukraine had not formally declared war on Russia.

The issues of antisemitism and the Holocaust have played a central role in the propaganda war accompanying the Russian invasion, with President Vladimir Putin’s regime depicting Ukraine’s elected leadership, including its Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, as “neo-Nazis.”

Russia’s statements in this regard have become more hostile as the invasion has progressed, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating in May that “Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood too.” During the last week, Russia has begun the process of closing down the operations in Russia of the Jewish Agency, indicating that efforts by Russian Jews to emigrate to Israel could face significant legal obstacles.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has highlighted its own efforts to combat antisemitism. Just over a week before the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s parliament approved legislation that would impose hefty fines and even custodial sentences on individuals convicted of antisemitic incitement.

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