As the fighting in eastern Ukraine continues to escalate, one of the overlooked aspects of the conflict is the presence of anti-Semitism. The separatist forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics have long claimed to be at war with a fascist regime in Kiev, yet they count among their ranks volunteers pulled from the Russian far right, people often much closer to fascists than anyone in the Ukrainian government.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic announced on 2nd February, a mass mobilization in the de facto republics. He disparagingly called the current regime in Kiev, “Jewish”. More specifically, he referred to the supposedly Jewish Ukrainian leaders as “miserable representatives of a very large, great nation.” He described this situation as farcical — Jews who “have never held a sword in their hands” commanding Cossack warriors — and suggested that Ukraine’s historic heroes would turn over in their graves if they caught wind of this.
The Donetsk leader was clearly attempting to tap into Ukraine’s latent anti-Semitism, a prejudice that historically has been endemic to the Eastern European region.
In April 2014, several masked men waving Russian flags and claiming to represent the separatists gathered near a Donetsk synagogue to hand out fliers ordering local Jews to register with the separatist authorities or face deportation.
Read Matthew Kupfer’s full report here.