Russia denied on Wednesday a claim by Ukraine that it had struck the town of Uman, visited by tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews each year, and showed pictures of what it said were Ukrainian forces loading arms near a synagogue there.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Israeli lawmakers on March 20 that Russia had struck Uman on the first day of the invasion in February.
"I want to underscore that the Russian armed forces do not strike civilian targets as part of the special military operation," Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said of Zelensky's remark.
Russia, Konashenkov said, had not hit any religious buildings or other places of public worship.
Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews descend on Uman every Jewish New Year to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who revived the Hasidic movement and died in 1810.
Konashenkov also showed March 21 pictures of what appeared to be Ukrainian forces loading arms near a synagogue in the town. Reuters was unable to independently verify the photographs.
Russia, he said, had struck fuel depots in eastern Ukraine with air-launched missiles and used tactical missiles to destroy two large rocket arsenals in eastern Ukraine.
"High-precision air-launched missiles destroyed large fuel depots in the Starokonstantinov and Khmelnitsky districts that supplied fuel for the armored vehicles of Ukrainian troops in the Donbas," Konashenkov said.
The Jewish community's response
Konashenkov's remarks were heavily disputed by the local Jewish community, who said claims that Ukrainian military forces using their synagogues were completely untrue.
All synagogues and Jewish sites in Ukraine are used exclusively for their intended purpose, the Jewish community said on their official Telegram channel, according to Pravda.
They also took umbrage with the Russian photo of Ukrainian forces supposedly loading arms into the synagogue, noting that in the photo, it is "obvious" that the gates are closed and no one is inside.
This was confirmed by the Rabbi Nachman Foundation, which stated that the synagogue hasn't been used since Rosh Hashanah back in September, according to Pravda.