Ukraine Update #36: Donetsk, Slovyansk and Mariupol Communities Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 01, 2014, 1:12 p.m.

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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


Ukraine Update #36


Last night, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced an end to the ceasefire and the start of a new military offensive against the pro-Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine. The announcement came after multilateral peace talks in Donetsk failed to result in a breakthrough. Both the Ukrainian government and the separatists said they would return to the negotiating table only after certain preconditions were met: the pro-Russian rebels' demands include a complete pullout of the government forces from the region, while authorities want the separatists to release hostages and give up control of seized border posts.

Moscow condemned Kyiv's decision to restart military operations against the pro-Russian separatists. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of fueling the crisis in Ukraine and said that "Russia will continue to defend the interests of ethnic Russians abroad." President Putin also accused Ukraine of using political blackmail to stall talks on Ukraine's imports of Russian natural gas, as well of targeting Russian journalists working on the ground, referencing the recent death of Russia's Channel One journalist Anatoly Klyan.

Last Friday, EU leaders announced their readiness to impose new sanctions on Russia, if the peace talks fail to produce concrete results. This morning, EU diplomats met again. While no immediate sanctions were announced, reports said that preparations for a new round of sanctions are underway.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine resumed as Ukrainian military forces initiated air strikes and artillery offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs urged residents of these regions to stay out of the streets today.

According to media reports, pro-Russian militants have attempted to seize the regional police headquarters in the city of Donetsk, and the building is currently under siege.

While violence in city of Donetsk is confined to specific locations, in a conversation with NCSEJ, the Jewish community of Donetsk reported increased levels of crime. They also reported general insecurity about the future and an increase in emigration from the city, mainly to Germany and Israel. The local synagogue and other Jewish groups are helping prospective �migr�s with completing documentation.

The Jewish community of Slovyansk said that even during the ceasefire agreement, the city was under shell fire. Some Slovyansk residents who left the city have come back because they can't afford life in other parts of the country. The town is still cut off from medicine and food supplies, and severe gas and water shortages continue. JDC and other charity organizations are sending supplies the Jewish community members who have stayed. Those who have left the city are being helped by charity organizations from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Donetsk.

The Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community reported that the local Hesed is actively helping refugees from areas of unrest. Refugees receive help finding housing, paying rent, and accessing basic necessities.

Some Slovyansk Jews left for the nearby town of Sviatohirsk. While Sviatohirsk is fully supplied with food and other necessities, it is surrounded by road blocks, preventing travel to Kyiv or Western Ukraine.

NCSEJ spoke yesterday with the Jewish community leaders in Mariupol. They reported a stable situation in the city. Despite the fact that local rabbi has left town, the community still gathers for Shabbats and other events and celebrations at the synagogue. The local Hesed also provides psychological counseling for families to deal with trauma.

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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