Ukrainian envoy to UN downplays anti-Semitic violence in his country

Yuriy Sergeyev says, if there are those who are anti-Semitic, “they are just a couple of people, most probably the police knows them."

Kiev, Ukraine, February 22, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kiev, Ukraine, February 22, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – Anti-Semitism is against the law in Ukraine, Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN under Viktor Yanukovich, told a press conference at the UN in New York on Monday.
Despite reports of attacks on Jewish estates and synagogues in Ukraine, Sergeyev told reporters the phenomenon probably was not widespread.
“It comes, not from a group of people, not even from the political parties. It comes from a certain people who then they’re trying to apologize, some statements and so on,” Sergeyv told reporters.
“Any attempt at anti-Semitism, any attempt not only at anti-Semitism but whatever, should be punished because it is under criminal law.”
If there are those who are anti-Semitic, “they are just a couple of people, most probably the police knows them,” he said.
“The only message that I could tell you, there is no state anti-Semitism, under the law of the protection of the rights” of various groups, Sergeyev said. If such anti-Semitic attacks are happening, he added, they “should be punished under the law.”
Sergeyev took the fact that such reports were being disseminated as a good sign. “If you heard about any violations of the rights of any groups, it means the information is not closed,” he said. “It means that those who are monitoring the human rights situation in Ukraine are efficient.”
He acknowledged he did not know the details of any attacks on Jewish communities, despite reports on Monday that a Chabad House in Zaporozhye in the southeast of the country was firebombed.
“There are no violations of the rights of the Jewish population as a state policy,” Sergeyev said, citing the government’s policy of returning synagogues and Jewish monuments and cemeteries to the community.
He cited the case of an academy that was shut down about 10 years ago because its head was spreading anti-Semitic propaganda.
“We’ve lived with the Jews for centuries, because they could not live in Russia” Sergeyev said. Any politician or media outlets that were calling the anti-government protesters nationalists, fascists or anti-Semites were lying, he said. “Who is anti-Semitic, the owners of shops and restaurants, most of whom are ethnic Jews, who gave their premises for temporary hospitals?” he asked.
Sergeyev said he had taken note of the protests taking outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv. “Many of them [the Israeli protesters], they are from Ukraine, and they know exactly what happened in the late ’70s: The same violation of their rights happened in the Soviet Union,” Sergeyev said. That’s why they know what they are protesting for, he said.