Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko pays visit to Babi Yar, Kiev.
(photo credit: UKRAINE EMBASSY TEL AVIV)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is set to travel to Prague in January to attend an event marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz.
Poroshenko, who was elected following the ouster of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich during last winter’s Euromaidan revolution, was reportedly invited along with the leaders of other countries that fought against Germany during the Second World War and is the first to confirm his attendance.
“For us, the memory about the holocaust is holy and the president will visit Prague on the occasion of this landmark and tragic event,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Itar Tass.
Russia has lambasted Kiev’s post-revolutionary government as fascist and has raised the specter of anti-Semitism, warning of dangers to Ukrainian Jewry.
The Holocaust has become politicized in the conflict between Russia and its former Soviet subject, with Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar holding a Holocaust memorial in the Crimean Peninsula shortly after its annexation by Moscow. Both Israeli chief rabbis denied involvement in the event following press releases stating that they would be present.
Members of anti-Semitic groups have been seen fighting on both sides in the civil war in Ukraine’s eastern regions bordering Russia, a war that Western nations have accused Russia of fomenting.
The Holocaust memorial site at Babi Yar was twice defaced in recent months, once prior to an official visit by Poroshenko to the site, where more than 30,000 Jews were murdered. A firebomb was hurled at a Kiev synagogue recently and a series of vandalism incidents and attacks against Jewish targets toward the end of the revolution and in the days of its aftermath raised worries of a rise in anti-Semitism.
Some Ukrainian Jews have denounced Russia for allegedly stirring up provocations, and the World Jewish Congress has downplayed the severity of anti-Semitism there, even as Russian outlets like Pravda and Izvestia report nonexistent pogroms in Odessa.
One communal representative, speaking on condition of anonymity, recently told The Jerusalem Post that Ukrainian authorities have expressed a commitment to combating anti-Semitism both for its own sake and because “they realize that any anti-Semitic attack could reflect badly on them” given the Russian claims.