Donestsk, Luhansk,
  Slovyansk Jewish
  communities report


June 13, 2014, 1:40 p.m.


TO: NCSJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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


In another escalation of the conflict, Ukrainian authorities accused Russian troops of illegally crossing the border with Ukraine yesterday. According to Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, three Russian tanks and other military vehicles crossed the border near the city of Luhansk yesterday, and clashes between the Ukrainian and Russian military forces followed. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced the move as unacceptable.

This latest development brings a new chill to Russian-Ukrainian relations, days after Presidents Putin and Poroshenko met in France and pledged to find a political solution to the crisis. It has been reported that they have spoken by phone since meeting in France, but no further details are available.

Also this week, trilateral gas negotiations continued between Ukraine, Russia and the EU. Moscow has extended Kyiv's deadline for paying off a portion of its gas debts to June 16th, and offered to lower the price for gas to $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, from the $485 Ukraine currently pays. Ukraine has rejected the Russian offer, seeking an even lower price of $326. Negotiations appear to have stalled, and their failure may lead to a gas cut-off, which would seriously exacerbate Ukraine's burgeoning economic crisis.

Yesterday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he is ready to hold talks with pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions if they give up their arms, but the insurgents have given no indication they will lay down their weapons.

Meanwhile, the crisis in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is growing. The situation is especially troubling in the city of Slovyansk, a pro-Russian separatist stronghold. NCSEJ Kyiv representative Ilya Bezruchko has been in contact this week with the Jewish community representatives from Slovyansk, who are temporarily residing in the nearby city of Svyatogorsk.

They reported an alarming situation in Slovyansk, including shortages of food, water, medicine and electricity. Many Slovyansk residents have left town, although the elderly and those without the means to relocate have stayed. Shots are being heard outside of Slovyansk, and residents are hiding in their basements from shell bombing.

There are reports of close to 200 Jews who still remain in Slovyansk. NCSEJ remains in contact with JDC representatives and others who are in touch with the remaining Jewish community and coordinating assistance for them.

The situation in the nearby town of Kramatorsk is more stable, but shell fire from Slovyansk has also impacted several neighborhoods in Kramatorsk.

Ukrainian troops stepped up their anti-terrorist offensive in the town of Mariupol, in the Donetsk region. Dozens of separatists were arrested today by the government forces, and Mariupol is currently under the government's control.

Clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops continue in several towns of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Thousands are leaving these regions, and the Ukrainian government has created 'green corridors' to help civilians escape the fighting. However, the elderly and those without means to travel still remain in these areas and require assistance.

NCSEJ also contacted the Jewish communities in other regions of Ukraine, including Odessa, Mykolaiv, and Kharkiv. Their representatives report a stable situation, and a normal Jewish community life. However, they are extremely concerned about the unrest in the troubled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

As always, NCSEJ 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.