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Prominent Ukrainian Jews rebuff Putin’s anti-Semitism claims

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-08

An open letter to Vladimir Putin from prominent Ukrainian Jews has accused the Russian president of using false claims of ultra-nationalism and anti-Semitism to legitimise intervention in Ukraine.

“Historically, Ukrainian Jews are mostly Russian-speaking,” begins the letter, dated Friday March 7, which calls on Putin to withdraw his forces from Crimea.

“Our opinion on what is happening carries no less weight than the opinion of those who advise and inform you.”

The signatories, among them scholars, scientists, businessmen, artists and musicians, firmly reject the line put forward by Putin in a press conference on Tuesday that the protest movement that removed president Viktor Yanukovich was made up of “anti-Semitic forces on the rampage”.

“Your certainty about the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, which you expressed at your press conference, does not correspond to the actual facts,” the letter continues. “Perhaps you got Ukraine confused with Russia, where Jewish organisations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year.”

And while the signatories accept the existence of “some nationalistic groups” in the anti-Yanukovich protest movement, they insist that “even the most marginal do not dare show anti-Semitism or other xenophobic behaviour”.

“And we certainly know that our very few nationalists are well-controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government – which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services.”

They add: “We have a great mutual understanding with the new Government, and a partnership is in the works. There are quite a few national minority representatives in the Cabinet of Ministers: the Minister of Internal Affairs is Armenian, the Vice-Prime Minister is a Jew, two ministers are Russian. The newly-appointed governors of Ukraine’s region are also not exclusively Ukrainian.

Even more directly, the signatories accuse Putin of being personally responsible for the instability engulfing Ukraine.

“It is your policy of inciting separatism and crude pressure placed on Ukraine that threatens us and all Ukrainian people, including those who live in Crimea and the Ukrainian Southeast,” they write. “Southeastern Ukrainians will soon see that for themselves.

The letter concludes: “We highly value your concern about the safety and rights of Ukrainian national minorities. But we do not wish to be ‘defended’ by sundering Ukraine and annexing its territory.

“We decisively call for you not to intervene in internal Ukrainian affairs, to return the Russian armed forces to their normal fixed peacetime location, and to stop encouraging pro-Russian separatism.”

Date created : 2014-03-07

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