Lviv, Kharkiv, Donetsk 
Jewish communities report

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Washington, DC                   Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 4:45 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 #34

Over the weekend, violence in Ukraine's eastern regions escalated, as pro-Russian separatists shot down a transport plane near the city of Luhansk, killing all 49 soldiers on board.

In response, close to 300 demonstrators protested outside of the Russian embassy in Kyiv, throwing rocks and paint into the building, and overturning and smashing embassy cars.

Ukraine's government is accusing Russia of continuing to amass forces along the joint border and arming pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. In a phone call with his Russian counterpart on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern about the flow of militants and weapons into Ukraine, and urged Russia to work with Ukraine to de-escalate the situation.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated further yesterday when Russian state-controlled company Gazprom announced a cutoff of gas shipments to Ukraine, which failed to make a timely $2 billion payment on its gas debts to Russia. This move could exacerbate Ukraine's burgeoning economic crisis and threatens gas deliveries to Europe.

Today, an explosion in the Poltava region of central Ukraine destroyed part of a transit pipeline delivering gas to Europe. Ukraine has stated that the overall gas flow to Europe hasn't been affected.

Meanwhile, unrest in Eastern Ukraine continues. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that he will present a detailed peace plan to stop the unrest this week, but no further details on the conditions of a potential cease-fire are available yet.

NCSEJ contacted today a number of Jewish communities in Eastern Ukraine. The Jewish community of Slovyansk continues to report war-like conditions in the city. Many neighborhoods of Slovyansk are destroyed, and almost every hospital has been hit by rocket fire. Some parts of town are still cut off from water, electricity, and telephone services. Many Jewish families have left for nearby villages and cities; however, many elderly without the means to leave remain in their apartments.

Most apartments abandoned by their owners are now occupied by pro-Russian separatists.

The Jewish community of the nearby Kramatorsk also reported a very disturbing situation. Most stores are closed, and electricity and water supply are limited. Government pension payments have been stopped, and prices have risen dramatically.

Meanwhile, residents stay home to be safe. According to some reports, a fifth of residents of Kramatorsk have already left for other regions, and more are looking to leave. Members of the Jewish community continue to get help through local Hesed centers.

The Jewish community of Lysychansk, in the Luhansk region, has reported an alarming situation in the city, which is now controlled by pro-Russian separatists. There are reports of dozens of Chechen fighters operating in Lysychansk, who crushed a protest by local miners against the takeover by Lysychansk by pro-Russian groups.

The Jewish communities of Artemivsk and Krasnoarmeysk Donetsk region, reported a more stable situation in their cities. Food and other necessities are available, banks are open, and pensions are being paid on time.

The Jewish community of Kharkiv reported a stable situation, and an influx of refugees from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Three government-sponsored refugee camps have been opened for refugees from the troubled regions. In addition, local authorities, NGOs, and individual volunteers are collecting financial aid for the refugees.

Kharkiv Jewish representatives said that emigration from the city has increased. The Embassy of Israel has simplified the immigration process and many Jewish residents are using this as a backup option even if they are not currently ready to emigrate.

The Jewish mayor of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, who survived a shooting attack two months ago, has returned to the city after receiving medical treatment in Israel. Thousands of people gathered at the city airport to greet the mayor.

The Donetsk Jewish community reported that all community programs are being held as scheduled. While the situation in the city is currently stable, there is a general sense of anxiety about potential future unrest. . Community leaders are reporting an increase in aliyah from Donetsk as well.

In Lviv, in Western Ukraine, the situation is peaceful, and tourism has rebounded. Jewish community programs and celebrations are being held as scheduled. The number of refugees from Eastern Ukraine is increasing, and the local government is helping refugees to find housing and work.

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


NCSEJ National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry

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.

Telephone  202.898.2500

NCSEJ is a beneficiary of  The Jewish Federations of North America & National Federation/Agency Alliance through its network of Federations.

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