By GREER FAY CASHMAN, AP
President Shimon Peres may have played a significant role in the decision to cancel plans to build a hotel near Babi Yaar, the forest in which tens of thousands of Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
The Kiev Municipality had approved the construction of a hotel near the site to be opened in time for the 2012 Euro Football Championships, and the decision elicited vehement protests from Jewish communities around the world including Israel.
Peres, who participated in a video-conference on Israel-Ukraine relations on Friday, said in relation to the hotel that the Babi Yaar site must not be touched.
Whether it was the overall protest or whether it was the President of Israel who exerted the most influence, the upshot was that Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, who has the right of veto, cancelled the project. Another site will have to be found for the hotel.
When approval was initially given, the municipal council was unaware of the proximity of the planned hotel to Babi Yaar.
More than 33,700 Jews were rounded up and shot at Babi Yar over 48 hours beginning on Sept. 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.
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.
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