Skip to main content

Anti-Semitic fliers in eastern Ukraine denounced

By Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, Nick Paton Walsh and Sherisse Pham, CNN
updated 6:27 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "It's important for everyone to know its not true," Ukrainian rabbi says
  • Masked men handed out the fliers in front of a Donetsk synagogue, Jewish community says
  • Jewish leaders call it a "provocation ... full stop"
  • The U.S. ambassador in Kiev calls the leaflets "chilling" and "almost inconceivable"

(CNN) -- U.S. officials Thursday denounced what one called a "grotesque" leaflet ordering Jews in one eastern Ukrainian city to register with a government office, but the Jewish community there dismissed it as a "provocation."

The fliers were handed out by masked men in front the main synagogue in Donetsk, where pro-Russian protesters have declared a "People's Republic," Jewish leaders there said. The document warned the city's Jews to register and document their property or face deportation, according to a CNN translation of one of the leaflets.

Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" that a respected Jewish leader in Ukraine showed him a photograph of one of the leaflets. He called the document "chilling."

And in Geneva, where diplomats held emergency talks on the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the leaflets "grotesque" and "beyond unacceptable."

Anti-semetic fliers in Ukraine condemned
Ukraine crisis takes a 'grotesque' turn
Military thwarted by pro-Russian groups
Ukraine PM skeptical of Russian deal

But the Jewish community statement said relations between the Jews of Donetsk and their neighbors were amicable, and the self-proclaimed head of the "People's Republic," Denis Pushilin, denied any connection to the fliers.

Pushilin told CNN the handwriting on the flier wasn't his, and the title attached to his name was not one he uses. It wasn't clear who had distributed the leaflets, but the chief rabbi of nearby Dnipropetrovsk said, "Everything must be done to catch them."

"It's important for everyone to know its not true," said the rabbi, Shmuel Kaminezki. "The Jews of Donetsk will not do what the letter says."

The reports come as Ukraine's Western-backed interim government has been struggling to contain uprisings by pro-Russian political movements in several eastern cities, with both sides invoking the historical horror of Nazism in their disputes. Pyatt told CNN that radical groups may be trying to stir up historic fears or create a provocation to justify further violence.

"It's chilling. I was disgusted by these leaflets," Pyatt said. "Especially in Ukraine, a country that suffered so terribly under the Nazis, that was one of the sites of the worst violence of the Holocaust. To drag up this kind of rhetoric is almost beyond belief."

The leaflets were handed out on Tuesday, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Jewish community statement said. They stated that registration was required because Jewish leaders had supported the "nationalists and bandits" in Kiev, where a popular revolt ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

Where unrest has occurred in eastern Ukraine  Where unrest has occurred in eastern Ukraine
Where unrest has occurred in eastern UkraineWhere unrest has occurred in eastern Ukraine

"All citizens of Jewish nationality over age of 16, living on territories of Donetsk People's Republic, have to register with DPR commissioner of nationality before May 3rd, 2014 at the Donetsk Regional Administration, room 514, registration fee is $50," read a photographed copy of the leaflet translated by CNN. "Must have in person $50 cash, passport, all available IDs, and documentation of ownership of real estate and transportation."

The men also hung posters with the same message, it said.

"Who is behind this is an open question," Rabbi Pinkhas Vishedski said in the statement. But he said the act was a provocation "and should be treated accordingly ... full stop and end of topic."

Provocation or not, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League condemned their distribution and what it called their "cynical and politically manipulative" exploitation of anti-Semitism.

"We are skeptical about the flier's authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community," ADL Director Abraham Foxman said in a written statement.

Pyatt said that in Kiev, where the Jewish community is a vital part of political life, there is "no sympathy for this approach."

"It's almost inconceivable that this kind of thing could be happening in the 21st century," Pyatt said.

And Kerry said all parties at the Geneva talks unanimously condemned anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance.

"Any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities -- from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of -- there is no place for that," he said.

CNN Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:51 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Reza Sayah looks into why thousands of Ukrainians have left their old lives to volunteer to fight.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
CNN's Ralitsa Vassileva speaks to The New Republic's Linda Kinstler about Putin's motives with Ukraine and China.
updated 10:36 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
President Barack Obama speaks at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of "high-energy objects" from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
updated 7:34 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
"There were many scenes that defied logic," writes OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw, who was one of the first international observers to arrive at the site.
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
On a country road in eastern Ukraine, a scene of bucolic tranquility was suddenly interrupted by the aftermath of carnage.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In the city of Donetsk, the devastation wrought by weeks of fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces is all too apparent.
updated 8:00 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
CNN's Diana Magnay reports from the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:43 AM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
A shopkeeper's mutilated body, relatives' anguish, homes destroyed ... this is Donetsk.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
A 20-minute drive from Kiev takes you to a neighborhood that feels more like Beverly Hills than central Ukraine.
updated 3:31 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Photos illustrate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as fighting continues to flare in the region.
updated 12:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Future imports, exports between the EU and Russia are now banned -- but existing contracts continue.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
Learn more about the victims, ongoing investigation and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
updated 5:25 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
The downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine's eastern region center stage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT