June 3, 2014, 4:20 p.m.
TO: NCSJ Leadership and Interested Parties
Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko left for Warsaw today, to meet with President Barack Obama and European leaders to discuss ways to resolve the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and move towards European integration. Later this week, President Obama will travel to France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be in France for the D-Day commemoration, but the two have no official plans to meet.
FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSJ Executive Director
UKRAINE UPDATE #31
Meanwhile, heavy fighting is increasing between Ukrainian military forces and pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
On Monday, close to 500 pro-Russian insurgents attacked a border command center near the city of Luhansk, resulting in 17 people dead and dozens wounded.
The border command center currently remains under siege by the separatists. If the takeover is successful, pro-Russian insurgents will get control of the strategic border post, opening a gateway for the further influx of militants. According to Ukrainian media reports, already hundreds of armed pro-Russian militants cross the border into Ukraine every day.
The Jewish community of Luhansk reported a disturbing situation in the city. Shots are being heard daily, and the roads are blocked. Luhansk residents have access to food and medicine, but they are concerned about maintaining access to basic necessities if the situation deteriorates. The Jewish community is not being targeted.
Fighting continues in the city of Slovyansk, another separatist stronghold in the Donetsk region. NCSJ spoke with the Jewish community of Slovyansk, who said that the situation in the city is deteriorating. Several residential buildings have been destroyed as a result of the fighting, including an empty kindergarten building that was bombed Sunday night.
Several health workers from the local Hesed center have been given vacation leave, and have temporarily left town. Nevertheless, the Hesed center is open and continues to assist Jews in need.
Government pensions have not been sent to the residents of Slovyansk and neighboring Kramatorsk. Roadblocks are currently an obstacle for residents trying to leave Slovyansk. Those who wanted to leave for Israel and elsewhere have done so, although the increase in emigration numbers has not been large. Most of the elderly do not have the financial resources to permanently relocate.
The Jewish community of Kramatorsk reported a stable situation in the city, which is currently under control by the government. The Hesed center there is operating normally.
In Mariupol, the situation has been more stable recently, as fighting there has diminished. Pro-Russian terrorists moved to a building in close vicinity to the synagogue, but so far no provocations or fighting have taken place in the area. NCSJ spoke with the Jewish community of Mariupol, who said that the community is not being targeted, and is experiencing the same difficulties as the city's general population. Several banks are not operating in Mariupol.
In Donetsk, the situation is more stable than last week, but there is a general feeling of anxiety about the future. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic is no longer occupying the regional administration building, but roads to and from the city continue to be blocked by both Ukrainian government and separatist forces.
Some members of Donetsk Jewish community are in the process of making aliyah or moving to Germany, as both countries have simplified the immigration process for residents of Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Parents are looking for opportunities to send their children abroad.
As always, NCSJ will continue to monitor the situation throughout Ukraine, and provide you with timely and critical updates.
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