Analysis: Choice of Jewish PM undercuts long-held accusations of state anti-Semitism in Ukraine

Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Groysman being considered for the job by President Petro Poroshenko.

April 5, 2016 06:17
2 minute read.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER Volodmyr Groysman (right) speaks with Stepan Kubiv, President Petro Por

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER Volodmyr Groysman (right) speaks with Stepan Kubiv, President Petro Poroshenko’s representative in parliament, during a session in Kiev on March 29.. (photo credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)

A prominent Jewish politician in Ukraine has been tapped to replace the embattled and increasingly unpopular Arseniy Yatsenyuk as prime minister, a move that does much to undercut persistent Russian propaganda over the past several years aimed at painting Kiev as being ruled by a junta of Nazis and fascists.

Late last month, President Petro Poroshenko announced that he was considered parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Groysman to take the job as part of a far-ranging government shakeup that this week saw him dismiss Prosecutor- General Viktor Shokin and enter into a new coalition with the People’s Front and Batkivshchyna parties.

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The choice of Groysman has not been without controversy, with the Kyiv Post calling the Jewish politician a “loyalist” who “has pushed for legislation that plays into the hands of corrupt politicians, including bills reducing the anti-corruption prosecutor’s independence, exempting corrupt officials from responsibility for fraudulent property declarations, and allowing party leaders to get rid of elected members.”

As for the Jewish community, they showed little excitement when he was chosen as parliamentary speaker two years ago. At the time, sources within the community confided in the Post that they did not believe that his appointment would have any significant impact in on Jewish issues.

The ascension of the former Mayor of Vinnytsia, Regional Development, Construction and Communal Living Minister and Deputy Prime Minister was proof that Ukraine has become a more open and multi-ethnic country in which “every person can get any position independent of his ethnic origin,” Eduard Dolinsky, the Executive Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, a lobbying organization, said at the time.

“I think that it is just another proof that Ukraine is a normal multi-cultural society,” he told the Post.

There is no reason to believe that anything has changed since 2014 but the matter still bears significance due to the propaganda barrage against Ukraine launched by Moscow in the wake of the 2013-2014 Maidan Revolution, which deposed a pro-Russian President.

The Kremlin took pains to paint Ukraine as an anti-Semitic state abusing its Jewish population while as recently as last December, Poroshenko has lobbed back allegations of Russian state anti-Semitism.

And while parliament under Groysman has passed laws honoring members of nationalist militias which western historians have stated collaborated with the Nazis (allegations denied by Ukrainians) and some of Kiev’s forces fighting Russian backed separatists have been linked to neo-Nazi groups, violent anti-Semitic incidents remain rare and the government has repeatedly promised to defend its Jewish citizens.

In the end, the fact that a Jew can be nominated to serve as Prime Minister without his Judaism being a major issue shows just how far Ukraine has come.

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