[guest post by Dana]
It was a chilling scene in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk as Jews leaving a synagogue claimed masked men on the sidewalks were handing out leaflets requiring Jews to register “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated”.
The denials came quickly,
The leaflets were supposedly signed by Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the newly declared and unrecognized state that claims to represent ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But that group and other pro-Russian groups quickly denied they had anything to do with them.
“This has nothing to do with us; it is a provocation,” said Alexander Maltsev, a spokesman for the People’s Republic, in a telephone interview. He said he did not know who was responsible, or their motives.
The leaflets ordered Jews to register at Room 514 in the building used as the headquarters to pay $50 each, or “the guilty ones would be deprived of their citizenship and deported outside the republic and their property confiscated.”
Mr. Maltsev, the spokesman, said Mr. Pushilin had not written, signed or approved any text demanding that Jewish residents register. “How could he do such a thing?” Mr. Maltsev said. “He understands that many different kinds of people live here.”
A protester laughed about the fliers, believing they were nothing more than propaganda.
Ukrainian Jewish groups have mostly rejected the Russian government’s assertion that the new authorities in Kiev are anti-Semitic, the claim also made by militants here, while remaining on guard against the prospect that the country’s political turmoil will stir up old and dark hatreds.
That for now the anti-Semitic language and actions seem to be directed at other targets in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, rather than Jews, is little consolation.