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Amid a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in the Ukraine, world leaders are planning to gather in Kiev on September 27th to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre in which nearly 40,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko will welcome heads of state from several Eastern European countries as well as President Moshe Katsav, who is expected to lead the Israeli delegation. The World Holocaust Forum, which is the chief sponsor of the event, had earlier indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be coming, but the organization could not confirm his attendance as of Monday. But Russia is expected to send an official delegation, as are 40 countries in total.
Noting the increase in anti-Jewish actions in the Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere, World Holocaust Forum Chairman Moshe Kantor declared that "now more than ever, the symbolism and warning of Babi Yar must ring loudly." The commemoration, he continued, will "ensure that the terrible events of Babi Yar in 1941 are a lesson to the modern society about the frightening dangers of intolerance."
Speaking as preparations for the commemoration of the massacre gather steam, Kantor said that "the world was absolutely tolerant to this event," and that that in turn convinced the Nazis that "they could do whatever they want."
Part of Kantor's aim in holding the event is also to reclaim the site of the killings, which took place in a forest on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital. He said children now play soccer on the mass graveyard.
There has been some criticism that the government of Ukraine has been more willing to take symbolic steps against anti-Semitism - such as participation in this ceremony - than crack down on actual phenomenon. But Kantor, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, said that "on the governmental level" there has been "absolute full understanding."