Violence in Eastern Ukraine escalated this week, in what Ukrainian authorities said is the worst outbreak of fighting since the February ceasefire. Intense battles were reported near the strategic port of Mariupol, which if seized by the separatists would provide a land bridge to Crimea. Some analysts suggest that this is the beginning of a major pro-Russian separatists' offensive to gain more territory.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised concerns about the resurgence of violence in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, urging an immediate ceasefire. Moscow, in turn, blamed the Ukrainian authorities for the escalation.
Secretary Kerry also expressed concern about Iranian General Qassem Suleimani's visit to Russia last month. In 2007, the UN Security Council imposed a travel ban on General Suleimani because of his role in Iran's nuclear program. The Kremlin continues to deny reports of the visit. The U.S. State Department has requested that the UN Security Council investigate the matter.
Russia has extended the list of countries subject to a food import ban this week. Last week, President Vladimir Putin ordered hundreds of tons of banned Western food to be destroyed. The move has generated Russian public outrage, as many recall the famines under Soviet rule, and are concerned about the current economic distress affecting the needy.
I want to highlight a
New York Jewish Week
article about the current efforts of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) to press Poland to pass a restitution law that requires private properties confiscated by the Nazis or under Communist rule to be returned or compensated by the state. NCSEJ is a member of the WJRO; for more information on Holocaust restitution
see WJRO's updates on
I also want to bring to your attention an interesting story by the World Union for Progressive Judaism that highlights the first incoming class of the new Moscow Rabbinic Leadership Institute (Machon).
Finally, this Wednesday, August 12th, marked the 63rd anniversary of the Night of the Murdered Poets. NCSEJ published a special commemorative book to mark the 20th and 50th anniversary of the murders, reprinting poems of the murdered writers, alongside brief biographies. To view the book
Mark B. Levin