Ukraine Update #60: Donetsk, Mariupol Jewish communities report

WASHINGTON, D.C. January 22, 2015

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, NCSEJ Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSEJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSEJ Executive Director


Ukraine Update #60


NCSEJ is concerned about the dangerous escalation of fighting and rising death toll in Eastern Ukraine.

After a relatively quiet December, violence in the Donbas region has spiked this week. Today, at least thirteen more civilians were killed and twenty seriously injured in a wave of attacks on public transportation in Donetsk.

The death toll has been also rising in the continuous battle between pro-Russian militants and the Ukrainian army over the Donetsk airport. Yesterday, the Ukrainian government said that control over the airport had been lost to the rebels.

Ukrainian authorities are also saying that Russia has renewed its efforts to build up its army along Ukraine's border, and is moving troops into the country. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Russia has more than 9,000 troops, 500 tanks, and heavy artillery in Eastern Ukraine, and urged Russia to cease its "aggression."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused pro-Russian separatists of violating the ceasefire agreement and called their latest move "a blatant land grab." He also pledged continued support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Yesterday, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France met in Berlin, making some progress in peace negotiations. Kyiv and Moscow have agreed that both sides will pull back heavy artillery and create a demarcation line.

NCSEJ spoke with Donetsk Jewish community representatives, who said the extreme situation in the city has them urging community members to leave. However, many of those who remain in Donetsk are afraid to leave their homes because of the fighting. In addition, some community members, especially the elderly, do not have sufficient financial means to leave, and worry about the hardship of starting a new life elsewhere in Ukraine or in Israel. Those who are ready to leave Donetsk need transportation and other assistance to get out of the city.

JDC is reporting that it is now assisting 1,700 new clients, who are in need of support because of the deteriorating situation in the conflict zone.

Recently, several media outlets reported that community leader Yehuda Kelerman was killed in a violent attack in Donetsk. However, the Donetsk Jewish community said that these reports are untrue and are most likely a provocation.

The situation continues to deteriorate in the city of Mariupol. Jewish community representatives have reported constant explosions and shelling on the outskirts of the city. "Explosions are so powerful that the glass inside apartments trembles," said one community representative.

NCSEJ will continue to monitor and report on the situation in Ukraine. While there are always other issues that compete for the American Jewish community's attention, we need to show our unity and support for the safety and well-being of the Ukrainian Jewish community. Now is not the time for "Ukraine fatigue" to set in, when so many of our fellow Jews are in need.


Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union. 
Phone: 202-898-2500 
NCSEJ is a beneficiary of The Jewish Federations of North America and the National Federation/Agency Alliance through its network of Federations. 
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