Anti-Semitic leaflets have reportedly been distributed in some part of eastern Ukraine asking Jews to “register” with authorities, provide a list of property they own, and pay a fee or they may have their citizenship revoked, Israeli media reported.
According to one translation, the leaflet was signed by Denis Pushilin, the leader of Donetsk’s pro-Russian separatists. Pushilin denies any connection to the pamphlets.
“Some idiots yesterday were giving out these flyers in targeted areas,” he told reporters.
A tweet from an account called "News of the Donbass", the eastern Ukrainian region where pro-Russian separatists are facing off against pro-government forces, said "They were giving this out at synagogues in Donetsk" with an image of the leaflet:
Раздавали около синагоги в Донецке pic.twitter.com/sQZGt6GyY3
— Новости Донбасса (@novostidnua) April 15, 2014
The flyer says those in the Jewish community support the “Bandera junta” – a reference to Stepan Bandera, a contentious figure that some have seen as a leader of Ukraine’s liberation movement or Nazi collaborator. If the latter is true, the connection between the Jewish community to a freedom fighter that fought alongside Hitler’s army could raise questions over the pamphlet’s authenticity.
Whether the leaflets are Ukrainian propaganda that is anti-Russian or penned by pro-Russian militants is unclear. According to top U.S. government officials, the pamphlets are real, with the intention to either stir fear or to create sufficient reason to justify further violence in the region.
“We’ve been in touch with a number of people both in the Jewish community leadership here in Kiev but also at the grassroots level in Donetsk and everything we’re hearing suggests this is the real deal,” Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, told CNN adding that they are being distributed by one of the various radical groups on the ground.
Ben Rhodes, the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, said the pamphlets that are forcing Jews to register are “outrageous.”
reports of Jews being forced to register by pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine are chilling, outrageous and must be universally condemned
— Ben Rhodes (@rhodes44) April 17, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the pamphlets "grotesque."
"It is beyond unacceptable," Kerry said. "And 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."