|NCSJ WEEKLY UPDATE
May 30, 2014
TO: NCSJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSJ Executive Director
Despite another round of violence this week in the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions, there is a general feeling of optimism in most of the country after the successful presidential elections that took place last Sunday.
In the aftermath of the elections, we spoke with the Jewish communities throughout Ukraine, including Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv, and Lviv, who are happy about the success of the elections and are hopeful that the country will finally be able to move forward.
The vast majority of Ukrainians were able to cast their votes on Sunday. The turnout was unusually high (except in the troubled Donetsk and Lugansk regions), and Petro Poroshenko won in a landslide. International observers commended the elections for being remarkably free of violations.
The President-elect faces many challenges, including ending unrest in the Eastern regions of Ukraine, and tackling the burgeoning economic crisis. One of the most important priorities is combatting corruption, which has impeded Ukraine's progress since its independence. Poroshenko's legitimacy depends on these reforms. The Maidan revolution shaped a different understanding of the government's accountability, and Poroshenko and his team will need to earn the trust of the Ukrainian people.
Meanwhile, Russia has moved forward with its Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), reinforcing already close ties with its neighbors. Yesterday, the Presidents of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed the agreement initiating the creation of the EEU. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are also on the path to join the alliance.
In Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, demonstrators stormed the presidential administration on Tuesday, protesting corruption and misrule of the region's authorities. The opposition is currently in control of the presidential building and is calling on the Abkhazia president to resign. If unrest and violence continue in the region, this could be another blow to Russia, which supported the self-proclaimed independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008, but failed to encourage reform and transparent rule in these regions.
For those who wondered about the implications of the Ukrainian crisis on the Iranian negotiations, this week's update includes a piece by Alexei Arbatov, presented at the Carnegie Moscow Center, analyzing the impact of the crisis in the U.S.-Russian relationship on the broader foreign policy issues.
I also want to highlight an opinion piece by U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) about the need for continued vigilance in combatting anti-Semitism worldwide.
Lastly, we hope you will join us for our upcoming Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday, June 10. Presentations will include a keynote speech from U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rubin, and remarks by Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Yaakov Bleich and Dr. Archil Gegeshidze, Ambassador of Georgia to the United States. For more information and to register, please visit www.ncsj.org/Board.pdf.
Mark B. Levin
By Ilya Bezruchko
NCSJ, May 23, 2014
Millions of Ukrainians are preparing to go to the polls on Sunday, in hope that successful elections will resolve the ongoing crisis in the country. For months, Ukraine has been entangled in this crisis, which has implications not only for the future of the country but for the European continent as a whole.
The crisis also affected the Ukrainian Jewish community. Although it hasn't been singled out, it has been a target of several provocations, and is negatively impacted by the general decline in security and the deteriorating economic situation.
The situation on the ground is complex. In Kramatorsk, a city in the Donetsk region still controlled by pro-Russian insurgents, no preparations for the elections are being made. The lack of preparations for the presidential elections contrasts strikingly with the May 11th pro-Russian referendum in the city, when every voting location was open.
A similar situation is taking place in Slavyansk, another city of unrest in the Donetsk region. The Jewish community leadership of Slavyansk has said that they are concentrating on helping local Jews in need and keeping Hesed centers open. The Jewish community remains apolitical, they said.
We have also received reports that general security situation in the Lugansk region is deteriorating.
The situation is different outside of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, in Odessa, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovs'k.
Despite the fact that Kharkiv is in close proximity to the Donbas region, the situation there is stable and calm. Close to 90% of pro-Russian activists who took part in anti-government rallies in the city are not locals, but came from the Belogorod region of Russia or from the Donetsk area. Local Jews feel safe and are hoping for positive changes in the aftermath of the election. The only hotspot in the region is the town Izum, where anti-terrorist operation staff are stationed.
In Dnipropetrovs'k, local Jewish youth are civically active, supporting Ukrainian territorial integrity and successful elections. The Jewish community representatives said that the majority of locals are likely to vote on Sunday, even if they have to commute from outside of the city.
Representatives of Lviv Jewish community in Western Ukraine said they are expecting a high turnout for the elections. They reported no incidents of anti-Semitism in the city. The situation is similar in Uzhgorod, another city in Western Ukraine.
Overall, the majority of Ukrainians are hoping the upcoming elections will bring stability and peace. They are tired of the prolonged crisis, which began last November with the Maidan protest, and continued with the Russian annexation of Crimea and unrest in the east of Ukraine. Hopes for a bright future of Ukraine depend on the success of these elections.
for NCSJ's Weekly News Update.
NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia,
Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, founded
represents the organized American Jewish
in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the
estimated 1.5 million Jews living in the 15
states of the former Soviet Union.
NCSJ is a beneficiary of The
Federations of North America and the National
through its network of