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Ukrainian nationalists protest over Hasidic pilgrims

September 25, 2011 20:24

Police detain dozens of people protesting against what they called an uncontrolled influx of Jewish pilgrims to town of Uman.

Rabbi Nahman followers in Uman

311_Jews in Uman. (photo credit:Ben Hartman)

KIEV - Ukrainian police detained dozens of people on Sunday protesting against what they called an uncontrolled influx of Jewish pilgrims to the town of Uman, police and the Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda said.

The protest, attended by about 100 people, took place days before the 70th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, the mass killing of Jews by Nazis after the occupation of Kiev in 1941.

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Violence feared ahead of yearly pilgrimage to Uman

Uman, a town of 90,000 in central Ukraine, is the site of an annual pilgrimage by tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews who visit the grave of a prominent Jewish cleric, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Svoboda held the protest rally in Uman to demand stricter legal and sanitary controls on pilgrims. Its activists say the pilgrim influx must be better regulated and presents a security and health risk.

"We are not anti-Semites, we do not have anything against Jews," Tetyana Chornomaz, the head of the regional Svoboda unit, told Reuters by telephone from Uman. "(But) we have many questions regarding their (pilgrims') stay in Ukraine."

Chornomaz said riot police detained about 20 people following brief scuffles after the rally but it was not clear if they faced any charges.

Interfax news agency quoted the Interior Ministry as saying police had detained about 60 people.
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