JERUSALEM – Jewish organizations in Crimea and Russia have denounced statements made by Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko, accusing Russia of fomenting anti-semitism and violating the rights of Jews in Crimea.
Community leaders issued a joint statement on Friday saying “Jewish organizations of Crimea firmly state that these allegations are false, and are a clumsy and hopeless attempt to distort the true picture of the existing inter-ethnic peace and harmony in the Russian Crimea. Today, we are under the protection of the Russian state.”
The statement was signed by All-Crimean Jewish Congress, Simferopol and Yalta Jewish national and cultural autonomies, Jewish community of Sevastopol, Simferopol Community of Orthodox Judaism, and local religious organization of progressive Judaism of the Kerch city district.
In a speech before the Knesset during a state visit to Israel last week, Poroshenko said that Jews living in the Ukrainian territory – which Russia occupied and annexed early in 2014 – may find themselves in danger.
He said that over the last 21 months, 9,000 Ukrainians were victims of “Russian-funded terror,” and warned that the 17,000 Jews in Crimea may find themselves in danger. “The occupiers have started encouraging antisemitism,” Poroshenko stated.
The Ukrainian president compared his country to Israel, saying Ukraine is “a stronghold of democracy in Eastern Europe, just like Israel is a stronghold of democracy in the Middle East. We are a free country and fighting against the Russian aggression and defending our democratic government. We want to decide our future on our own.”
A senior Russian rabbi also accused Poroshenko of lying about Russia’s treatment of Jews. Rabbi Boruch Gorin, spokesman for Rabbi Berel Lazar, one of Russia’s chief rabbis who is considered very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Poroshenko was “using the Jewish card and slandering and lying.”
Gorin criticized Israeli politicians for not addressing these issues during Poroshenko’s visit, his first as president.
Poroshenko also warned in his Knesset speech against Russia’s involvement in Syria, accusing Moscow of killing innocent civilians, and hinting that Russian weapons may fall into the hands of those who seek to harm Israel.