Donestsk, Slavyansk,
  Odessa Jewish
  communities report


May 27, 2014, 2:30 p.m.


TO: NCSJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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


A new round of heavy fighting began in Eastern Ukraine, shortly after Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in the Sunday presidential elections and vowed to end conflict in the areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

In Donetsk, Ukrainian troops retook the local airport from pro-Russian groups in an aggressive offensive, deploying helicopters, fighter jets, and paratroopers. Media reports estimate that close to 50 pro-Russian militants died as a result of the government's offensive.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukrainian authorities to halt operations against pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Prior to the elections, President Putin said that Russia would recognize the vote's results and cooperate with the new authorities.

NCSJ contacted the Jewish community leadership in Donetsk, who called the situation in the city alarming. While violence is concentrated mainly in a few parts of Donetsk, people throughout the city are staying home. Most of the schools were closed today and high school seniors' final exams have been rescheduled.

No voting took place on May 25th in Donetsk, where a high level of misinformation about the current political situation in Ukraine persists, since most TV channels in the Donetsk region are pro-Russian.

Similarly, elections were not held in Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Artemivsk, Horlivka, and several other towns of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

In Slavyansk, the Jewish community reported a disturbing situation. Gunshots were heard near the city today, and yesterday several houses inside the city itself came under fire. The community reported a large number of militants, whose affiliation is unclear, as well as Chechen fighters, inside the city. Schools are currently open, and the local population has access to food and other basic necessities.

The Jewish community is not being singled out, but both Jews and non-Jews are extremely concerned about the general security situation in the city. Many are trying to leave Slavyansk temporarily, especially families with children. Leaving town is difficult however, since regional trains and buses connecting Slavyansk to other cities are not currently operating.

There is an increased interest in long-term emigration by both Jews and non-Jews. However, to get information or apply for emigration Slavyansk residents need to travel to Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, or in some cases as far as Kyiv, which is physically and financially difficult for some city residents.

In Kramatorsk, shootings and explosions are being heard, mostly from the nearby city of Slavyansk. All roads leaving the city are closed, except for the one connecting to Donetsk. Despite the unrest in the city, the Jewish community leadership reported that the community programs are held as scheduled.

Outside of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions the situation is stable.

NCSJ spoke with the Jewish community leadership of Odessa, who reported a quiet situation in the city. The turnout for the elections was high; a large number of international observers witnessed the vote and reported no irregularities in the presidential elections. Overall, residents of Odessa are optimistic about what they see as successful national elections.

Mayoral elections in Odessa were more divisive, but conflict was avoided, despite deep political divisions about the candidates. Gennady Trukhanvov (the Party of Regions) was declared winner over Eduard Gurwitz, the candidate backed by Poroshenko.

In conversation with NCSJ, the Kharkiv Jewish community reported that city residents are celebrating successful elections, with only a small percentage of the population rejecting the results. However, concerns remain about violence and unrest that is currently confined to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions potentially spreading to other areas.

As always, NCSJ will continue to monitor the situation throughout Ukraine, and provide you with timely and critical updates.

About NCSJ

NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, founded in 1971, represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews living in the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.

phone: 202-898-2500

NCSJ is a beneficiary of The Jewish Federations of North America and the National Federation/Agency Alliance through its network of Federations.