Ukrainian PM: attacks on Babi Yar are meant to ‘destabilize’ us

On Rosh Hashana, assailants burned tires at Holocaust memorial.

September 30, 2015 00:14
2 minute read.

Smoke rises above an old terminal (L) and an administrative building of the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport after the recent shelling during fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, November 9, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Repeated incidents of vandalism against the Holocaust memorial at Kiev’s Babi Yar ravine are political weapons aimed at the Ukrainian government and state, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk wrote World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer.

The memorial, which commemorates the more than 33,000 Jews massacred at the site in September 1941, has been vandalized six times in 2015 alone.

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According to the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, while anti-Semitic violence has remained low compared to western Europe, vandalism spiked in Ukraine last year.

According to Yatsenyuk’s letter that he wrote last week, there are “compelling evidences [sic]” that “we are facing well-planned and thoroughly prepared provocations” whose purpose is to “throw discredit upon Ukrainian authorities and to destabilize the internal political situation in Ukraine.”

Russia has repeatedly accused the Ukrainian government of being under the control of fascists and neo-Nazis while some Ukrainian Jewish leaders have countered by accusing Moscow of fomenting anti-Semitic incidents for its own propaganda.

Recalling a meeting that he had held with Singer and Ukrainian Jewish leaders in Kiev last month, Yatsenyuk stressed that his government is firmly against anti-Semitism and stated that he had issued instructions that an “extremely comprehensive and impartial investigation of these shameful incidents” be carried out.

As described by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, in the latest incident, which occurred on Rosh Hashana, “assailants put tires around the menorah [at Babi Yar], poured an inflammatory liquid over them and set them alight.”

Some Ukrainian Jewish leaders have accused Kiev of providing insufficient protection for Holocaust sites around the country.

“To everyone’s outrage, public authorities and law enforcement agencies have not taken during this time... effective measures to prevent attacks on the landmark,” wrote Josef Zissels of the Vaad of Ukraine, Arkady Monastic of the Jewish Council of Ukraine, Igor Kuperberg of the Jewish Forum of Ukraine and Victoria Godik of the World Union of Jewish Students earlier this month.

In a separate statement, leaders of the Jewish Council of Ukraine, Jewish Forum of Ukraine, Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, Ukrainian Jewish Committee and other groups demanded “immediate and effective steps to prevent vandalism in the future along with the strengthening of criminal responsibility for vandalism and punishment of the organizers and executors of this crime.”

“[The] almost no reaction of civil society and mass media, no feedback from authorities and law enforcement agencies in respect to the events in Babi Yar clearly indicates ignorance of the society in respect to the large-scale tragedy that happened to the Jews of Ukraine during the Holocaust, the groups asserted.

During their meeting last month, Singer and Yatsenyuk announced that “the Ukrainian government, the local Jewish community and the WJC should work together to host an international commemorative event on September 29, 2016, the 75th anniversary of the [Babi Yar] massacre.”

“We have urged the Ukrainian government to address the situation concerning the repeated vandalism of the Babi Yar site,” Singer told the Post.

“We don’t know who is behind these attacks, and what their motives could be, and we don’t want to speculate.

However, we have full confidence that the Ukrainian authorities will ensure the protection of this important memorial and that they will bring the perpetrators of these despicable acts to justice.

Whoever is behind this must be stopped, and adequate safeguards should be put in place without delay to prevent further such attacks.”

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