Ukraine Update #40: Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lviv Jewish communities report

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 21, 2014

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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


Ukraine Update #40


Tensions between Russia and the West have escalated dramatically as a result the downing of the Malaysian airplane in Ukraine last week.

In a statement today from the White House Rose Garden, President Barack Obama urged Russia to compel the pro-Russian separatists who control the territory where the plane crashed to allow international investigators full access to the crash site. He promised to impose additional costs on Russia if it continues to support the separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

Dutch investigators were finally able to access the site today, and bodies of the victims are currently being transported to Kharkiv, before being flown to Amsterdam.

President Obama also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to "get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine" in a timely manner.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke today about the possibility of the European Union blocking defense exports to Russia, freezing assets of oligarchs with close ties to President Putin, and imposing broader economic sanctions that could deny Russia access to the European markets. EU foreign ministers will meet tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

President Putin also made a statement today, in which he blamed the Ukrainian government for the crash. He said that "if on June 28 combat activities in eastern Ukraine had not been resumed, this tragedy most likely would not have happened...At the same time, no one has a right to use this tragedy to achieve their narrowly selfish political ends."

While the Ukrainian government has declared the territory around the crash site a demilitarized zone, government forces continued their offensive elsewhere in Eastern Ukraine.

NCSEJ spoke today with the Jewish community of Donetsk, which reported a disturbing situation in the city. Residents who haven't left Donetsk are being advised to stay home. Shots have been heard near the city and the local airfield. Many Jewish youth have left Donetsk for Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, or Kyiv.

The Jewish community of Torez, which is located in close proximity to the Malaysian crash site, reported that fighting is currently underway in the nearby town of Snizhne. The local Jewish community is mostly comprised of the elderly people, and have difficulty leaving Torez. The local Hesed center continues to supply the community with basic necessities.

Jewish community representatives from Krasnoarmiisk, Donetsk region, said the town's water supply has been cut off. They also said that because of an increased number of applicants to make aliyah, the application process is taking longer, despite the fact that Israeli consulates now function in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, and Kyiv.

Luhansk reported deaths of two members of the Jewish community, Svetlana and Anna Sytnikova who were killed in shelling on Friday. Svetlana and Anna were killed while standing at a crosswalk, on their way to a store.

Several Jewish families have lost their homes in the shelling of Luhansk.

The Jewish community representatives in Kharkiv said the community's attention is focused on the airplane crash and Israel-Hamas conflict. A group of 39 Jewish community members are in Israel on a business trip, and many Kharkiv citizens are praying for their safe return. The Kharkiv city center is blocked due to investigation of the plane crash, as experts from around the world are coming to help in conducting an unbiased investigation. According to the Kharkiv Jewish community representatives, refugees from Slavyansk and Kramatorsk that had been staying in camps in the Kharkiv region have returned home.

On July 20, around 1,500 Jews gathered in Kyiv in support of Israel and Ukraine in an event organized by the Israel Cultural Center and Hillel International. Several buses of Jewish youth traveled from Eastern Ukraine (Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, as well a few representatives from Donetsk) to attend the rally. The celebration began with the Ukrainian and Israeli national anthems, as well as with one minute of silence in remembrance of the fallen Israeli and Ukrainian soldiers.

NCSEJ also spoke with the Jewish community of Lviv. Community representatives called the situation is peaceful and stable. The Jewish community continues its programs, seminars, and concerts. However, community members are extremely concerned about the Gaza conflict. Jewish community members also expressed their condolences to the families of victims who died in the airplane crash.
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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