babi yar 248 88.
(photo credit: AP [archive])
Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky has abandoned a plan by authorities in the Ukrainian capital to build a hotel on a killing field in the Babi Yar massacre, Army Radio reported on Saturday.
Jewish groups had condemned the plan on Thursday, days before the 68th anniversary of the massacre.
President Shimon Peres praised Chernovetsky's decision, in a brief statement released on Saturday evening. The president may have played a significant role in the Kiev mayor's decision.
Peres, who participated in a video-conference on Israel-Ukraine relations on Friday, said, referring to the hotel, that the Babi Yar site must not be touched.
Legislators loyal to Chernovetsky had approved the plan last week, to build dozens of hotels in the city over the next decade, including one across the street from a monument commemorating the victims.
More than 33,700 Jews were rounded up and shot at Babi Yar over a period of 48 hours beginning on September 29, 1941. In the ensuing months, the ravine was filled with an estimated 100,000 bodies, among them those of non-Jewish Kiev residents and Red Army prisoners of the Nazis.
The hotel would be built in the middle of the main killing site, according to Vitaliy Nakhmanovich, a leading Ukrainian Babi Yar scholar.
Oleksandr Bryhynets, who heads the Kiev city council's culture and tourism commission, said the planned three-star, 700-room hotel would be named Babi Yar. He called the plan immoral and said he would fight it.
Jewish leaders have expressed concern over what they say are persistent instances of disrespect for Jewish heritage and of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, which lost 1.4 million of its 2.4 million Jews during the Holocaust.