Ukraine Update #47: Luhansk, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk Jewish Communities Report 

WASHINGTON, D.C. September 2, 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 #47


Ukrainian officials warned yesterday of a full-fledged war with Russia, citing reports of Russian military presence in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. According to NATO officials, over 1,000 Russian troops are now operating within Ukrainian territory. Ukrainian authorities also accused Russia of using humanitarian aid shipments to smuggle weapons to pro-Russian separatist forces inside Ukraine.


Another round of talks between pro-Russian militants, Ukrainian authorities, and OSCE representatives were held yesterday in Minsk, in an attempt to reach a cease fire agreement. The talks failed to result in any breakthrough.


The fighting in Eastern Ukraine is intensifying. Ukrainian government forces suffered setbacks in the separatist strongholds of Luhansk and Donetsk. Yesterday, Ukrainian government troops were forced to withdraw from the Luhansk airport. The rebels also opened a new front in south-east Ukraine last week, encroaching on the port of Mariupol.


In response, NATO allies will meet this week in Wales to talk about the crisis, and President Barack Obama is traveling to Estonia, to reassure the Baltic states of the U.S. commitment to defend the borders of these states. At the NATO summit, the leaders are expected to endorse a creation of a rapid response force of 4,000 troops that would be stationed close to Russia.


The EU is also considering introducing stronger sanctions against Russia, which are expected to be announced by the end of this week.


While the international community is deciding what else it can do (short of supplying arms and troops to Ukraine) to stop Russia's aggression, the situation inside Ukraine is dire. The United Nations refugee agency reported that the number of displaced people in Ukraine has nearly doubled, approaching 260,000. Ukraine's economy is deteriorating.


Jewish refugees continue to arrive in Dnipropetrovsk, Cherkassy, Zhytomyr and elsewhere, fleeing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community reported that while they are doing all they can to accommodate the refugees, hundreds more arrive every day, all in need of food, housing, and medical help. Refugees come from every social class and profession: engineers, lawyers, economists, factory workers, pregnant women, families with children, etc.


All community buildings, including a home for the Jewish elderly and boarding schools, have been turned into refugee centers, where refugees receive meals, accommodation, and psychological help. Forty children who fled the areas of unrest are now attending the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish school.


Due to the prolonged crisis, the resources of the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community and the city in general are stretching thin. We have received reports that city's hospitals are overcrowded and unable to manage the influx of the sick and wounded.


The situation for those who stay in the areas of unrest is even more disturbing. Luhansk Jewish community said that the city is cut off from electricity and water supply. Pharmacies and banks are closed; purchasing food is becoming increasing difficult. Those who could leave the city have already done so, but the elderly and sick remain.


The situation in Donetsk is similarly alarming. The city is heavily damaged by shelling. Jewish community representatives reported that the local synagogue is still open, however the remaining Jewish community is shrinking every day, as more people are leaving to find a safer place.


NCSEJ also spoke with the Jewish community of Kharkiv, which is also dealing with an influx of refugees. Kharkiv residents are collecting clothes, food, and medical aid for the refugees, and the local government has organized refugee support programs. Close to 2,500 children from refugee families started their school year in Kharkiv's schools. The Jewish community is concentrating its activities on helping the displaced persons, which requires a significant amount of community funding.


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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