Ukrainian PM tells rabbi: we will protect you

Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has assured the Jewish community that the new government will do more to protect them.

A recent spate of antisemitic attacks has been blamed on both an upsurge of nationalism following last month’s Maidan revolution and an attempt by pro-Russian elements to create “provocations”.

Mr Yatsenyuk met Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi, Yakov Dov Bleich, this week, who complained that the recent unrest had created a need for greater security for synagogues and other Jewish buildings. Rabbi Bleich said that the community was struggling to pay for the extra protection it needed.

The prime minister promised that the government would guarantee police protection and denounced all antisemitic attacks. Last month, acting president Oleksander Tuchynov also announced that the government would ensure the safety of the Jewish community.

The issue of antisemitic attacks in Ukraine has been the subject of a propaganda war between Russia and pro-Western Ukrainians. The Russian side claims that the revolutionaries are dominated by “fascists and neo-Nazis” while pro-Western Ukrainians say that any antisemitic attacks have been carried out by Russian agents seeking to smear the temporary government in Kiev. At least two rabbis whose synagogues were vandalised in recent weeks said that the attacks were well-planned.

Last Thursday, an assistant of Rabbi Bleich, Rabbi Hillel Cohen, was attacked in Kiev by anonymous assailants. Rabbi Cohen had been an official representative of the community to the Maidan demonstrations.

Last updated: 2:30pm, March 20 2014