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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Chabad Rabbi Remains with Trapped Jews as Ukraine Troops, Rebels, and Russians Fight for Mariupol

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Jews in Mariupol, Ukraine are caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’ with nowhere to run as the winds of war whirl into their community. Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and rabbi of the city, Rabbi Mendel Cohen, has remained to serve his brethren in what has become one of the greatest challenges of his life.

Pro-Russian separatists, Russian tanks and Ukraine forces are all rapidly converging on the key southeastern port city to fight for control.

The nearby town of Novoazovsk reportedly has fallen to the rebels over the past 24 hours, according to a report by the BBC which quoted Russian TV. The Ukraine government told media that Russian forces have crossed the border in support of the rebel advance — a charge denied by Moscow.

The besieged cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, further north, have been embattled for months. The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), where the city of the same name is located, has attempted to secede from Ukraine. DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko told Russian TV there were up to 4,000 Russian citizens within the ranks of the separatist rebel army, “former high-ranking military officers who have volunteered to join us. They are fighting with us, considering that to be their duty.

“There are also many in the current Russian military that prefer to spend their leave among us, brothers who are fighting for their freedom, rather than on a beach.”

“People are very worried right now,” Rabbi Cohen told Chabad.org. “There are lines at all of the gas stations and ATMs and people are stocking up on food, so there is nothing left in the stores. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Mariupol, the second-largest city in Donetsk, is only 35 miles from the Russian border and Russian is the primary language. In February, pro-Russian separatists seized the city’s administrative buildings and maintained control over the city for months.

Kiev sent troops and battled for control over the city in a fierce fight that ended at the city’s police station. At least six were killed in the offensive and it took until June 13 before the Ukraine government forces managed to secure total control over the city.

Rabbi Cohen described “armed men with masks right next to the shul,” saying it was “dangerous to walk around in the street” until June. Since then, however, “thank God it has become more stable.”

The sense of unease has returned, however.

Over the past month, more than 330,000 people have been displaced by combat in Donetsk to the north, and Lugansk to the east. Some 2,000 people have been killed so far, according to some estimates.

Many refugees have ended up in Mariupol. This week the sounds of shelling are much closer. Mariupol’s Jews so far insist on staying, fearing the dangers on the road to freedom more than the uncertainties facing them in their own homes. The Chabad emissary says he will stay as long as he can to aid the community.

“We have a minyan three times a day and Torah classes. Our day camp just ended, and we are now preparing for the school year,” Cohen said. The Jewish community has also worked to supply food packages to a growing number of people who need them.

Out of four emissaries serving southeastern Ukraine, Rabbi Cohen is the only one left. Three others were forced to re-evaluate their situations, along with the Jews of Donetsk, Lugansk and Maakeevka.

‘I hope and pray they will be able to return to their work very soon,” Rabbi Cohen said.

Ukraine Rebels Hold European Observers Hostage

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Separatist fighters in the eastern Ukraine region of Donetsk confirmed Thursday they are holding four missing observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as hostages.

The pro-Russian rebels also shot down a Ukrainian government military helicopter Thursday during heavy clashes around the city of Sloviansk – located in the northern part of the Donetsk province — killing 14 people. Among the dead was General Volodymyr Kulchitsky, the BBC reported. The rebels allegedly used a Russian-made anti-aircraft system.

There has been heavy fighting over the past several weeks in the area, located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Ukraine’s border with Russia.

According to reports by the Associated Press, residents in Sloviansk – a hotbed of separatist forces — have been regularly shelled with mortar fire by government forces. Civilian casualties have been high, and some residents are fleeing, according to the reports.

The Jewish Agency for Israel evacuated a couple with two twin baby girls from the city of Donetsk (capital of the province) and another couple from the city of Mariupol, south of Donetsk city, out of Ukraine in a rescue operation earlier this week. The six were already set for aliyah, but the decision to rescue them was made due to the fierce battle that started over the Donetsk airport between Ukraine’s army and pro-Russian militants. They traveled overland to the Kiev airport and then flew from there on to Israel.

Kharkov Moving Towards Secession?

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Less than a month after the eastern Ukrainian capital city’s Jewish mayor was shot in the back, the Kharkov region is set to hold a referendum on independence within the next week.

Kharkov residents were urged to go to the polls to vote on whether to join the secession of the southeastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, the Itar-Tass news site reported.

“Southeast” Coordinating Council of Movement spokesman Yuri Apukhtin made the announcement Sunday at a rally in the city’s Freedom Square. A number of demonstrators waved Russian national flags at the rally, including those from the Ukrainian Communist party and from “Borba” (Struggle).

“Our task is not to participate in Ukrainian presidential elections in any case,” the activist said from the podium. “We should meet on this square on May 25. We do not recognize these elections.”

Presidential elections are scheduled in Ukraine for May 25 although the original election date was to be held on March 29, 2015. The date was changed following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. A second and final runoff election will be held on June 15 if the first election is inconclusive, according to media reports. The elected candidate will serve a five-year term in office.

Apukhtin said that although he had been invited to attend a second all-Ukraine national unity roundtable meeting held in Kharkov on Saturday, he “refused to participate.”

Jewish communities around Ukraine are watching the secessionist movements closely, and contingency plans are being made in each area. For the most part, however, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries say they are not leaving. All programs are continuing as planned thus far.

Meanwhile, Kharkov Mayor Gennady Kernes, 54, has been recovering in Israel since the beginning of the month from the critical wounds that nearly ended his life. Kernes suffered gunshot wounds to several vital organs, including the lungs and liver, during an assassination attempt in the wee hours of the morning several weeks ago.

Opposing his former Russian patrons, Kernes began to support Ukrainian nationalists in February following a coup in Kiev. He was shot while jogging prior to starting his work day.

Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, Kharkov chief rabbi and Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, visits him regularly at the hospital where he is being treated in Haifa. The mayor has reportedly continued to carry out his duties with his staff in Kharkov to the best of his ability via telephone. However, due to his medical condition, doctors say it is unclear when he will be able to return to his office, although they are sure his condition will improve.

Ukraine’s Jewish Mayor of Kharkov Begins His Recovery in Israel

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Kharkov’s  Jewish Mayor Gennady Kernes is slowly overcoming near-fatal wounds and is on the road to recovery, Chabad-Lubavitch officials confirm.

While jogging in the wee hours of the morning last week, the Ukrainian official was shot by masked gunmen in an assassination attempt that nearly succeeded. His liver and lungs peppered with gunshot wounds, the critically wounded mayor was whisked away by medical airlift to Israel after emergency surgery in Kharkov. Following an initial stay at the private Elisha Hospital in Haifa, he was transferred to Rambam, where he underwent a second operation.

Mayor Kernes has now regained consciousness, and though still in very serious condition, he is recovering, officials said. “He woke up and he is speaking a little,” Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and Kharkov Chief Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz told Chabad.org . “G-d willing, I hope to visit him soon. Things are still delicate, but he’s getting better and we hope he gets out of it.”

He added that a Chabad emissary in Haifa has been a regular visitor at the mayor’s bedside.

The mayor has become a casualty of the violence that is rocking the country since pro-Russian separatists began disturbances weeks ago, with apparent encouragement from the Kremlin.

The city is located within the separatist province of Donetsk, which has declared itself to be an independent nation, the new “Republic of Donetsk.”

The Kremlin recently annexed Crimea, which seceded from eastern Ukraine last month. Russia now appears to have her eyes on Odessa, the third largest city in the country — located in western Ukraine — where dozens of people were killed in violence last week.

Jewish communities in Odessa have already made evacuation plans but have yet to carry them out; Jewish residents there and in Kharkov, Ukraine’s second-largest city, appear to be holding their breath and waiting to see what happens this coming weekend.

The ninth of May marks the victory of the former Soviet Union over the Nazis in World War II. It is a day that is still celebrated in eastern bloc nations and Soviet veterans — and is expected to ignite more violence in Ukraine.

It is also likely to raise anti-Semitic levels to new heights as well.

Russia Scolds NATO, USA on Sanctions, Troop Movements

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

As pro-Russian separatists eat up town after town in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin is closely monitoring NATO’s reaction – and the White House response.

Extra troops – 600 from the United States – were sent this week to Poland and the Baltic States to reassure NATO allies. In addition, new sanctions were imposed against Russian officials and pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists by the United States and the European Union.

The moves came following the kidnapping by pro-Russian separatists of some 40 people in eastern Ukraine.

Among the hostages were an Israeli American journalist (freed after Ukrainian government troops entered the city of separatist-controlled Sloviansk). Three members of the Ukraine security service and seven military observers for the Geneva-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are still being held.

The Jewish mayor of Kharkov in eastern Ukraine was likewise shot in the back by would-be assassins on Monday; he was airlifted in critical condition for advanced medical treatment to a hospital in Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rebuked the United States and the European Union Tuesday over the sanctions imposed on Russia due to the Ukrainian crisis.

“We reject sanctions in any of our relationships, in particular those sanctions that were sponsored by the United States and the European Union, which defy all common sense, regarding the events in Ukraine,” Lavrov told reporters during a trip to Cuba.

He complained the West was “attempting to blame others” for the crisis after sanctions in the United States imposed Monday on seven Russians and 17 companies directly linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The European Union similarly named 15 new targets for sanctions on Tuesday, including General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, and Lt.-Gen. Igor Sergun, head of the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU. Also on the list are Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and pro-Russian separatist leaders in Crimea and the eastern Ukrainian cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. A total of 48 individuals have so far been hit by EU sanctions thus far.

“The attempts to blame others is the result of weak politicians, or rather of those politicians who understand that their geopolitical ambitions have failed, and they are attempting to blame others,” Lavrov said.

Ukraine’s Crimea region was summarily annexed by Russia’s Kremlin after the province “elected” to secede from Ukraine following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president in February due to massive protests by a population demanding closer ties to Europe.

In response, eastern Ukraine has become a hotbed of separatist activity, with one town after the next falling to pro-Russian terrorism. Nevertheless, Russia denies encouraging the attacks, even though the separatists who carried the assault weapons all spoke a guttural Russian, as heard in videos shot by news reporters.

Recently the pro-Russian eastern Ukraine Donetsk province also declared itself independent from the country, and now refers to itself as the “independent Republic of Donetsk.”

Rising Anti-Semitism Driving Jews to Israel

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

The majority of those who moved to Israel last year came from areas in the former Soviet Union, mostly Ukraine and Russia, according to figures released Tuesday from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Immigration rose by just two percent, with the arrival of 16,884 new immigrants (olim) — but the lion’s share were from eastern Europe. Of those who were not from the FSU, 17 percent came from France, 13 percent arrived from the United States and eight percent flew in from Ethiopia. 

What a difference a year can make.

This year’s figures are likely to show an increase, given the brewing attempt by Russia to re-swallow Ukraine, and the rapidly rising anti-Semitism in France.

The Jewish Agency released a statement that by the end of March 854 French Jews arrived in Israel – a 312 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Cantor also is warning that Jews are being targeted nearly daily in anti-Semitic incidents. He adds that increasing numbers of Jews are contemplating aliyah as an option – and that most are looking for a way out of Europe.

In Ukraine, the Jewish mayor of Kharkov was shot in the back and critically wounded by unidentified would-be assassins earlier this week. Israeli doctors were sent to the eastern Ukrainian city to attend to Mayor Gennady Kernes; upon seeing the extent of his wounds, it was decided to airlift him to Israel for advanced medical treatment.

 

A third of those polled by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013 said they avoided wearing religious-appearing clothing and/or symbols due to fears of being identified as Jews. In addition, 23 percent stayed away from Jewish events and venues.

In 2013, Europeans formed the majority of immigrants – 64 percent – followed by those from the Americas and Oceania (21 percent), Africa (9 percent) and Asia (6 percent), according to the CBS report. Immigrants from the Americas – more females than males – settled primarily in the central region, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Critically Wounded Jewish Mayor Airlifted from Ukraine to Israeli Hospital

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Unidentified gunmen who tried to murder the Jewish mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov failed in their mission – and Mayor Gennady Kernes is now in Israel, having been airlifted for advanced treatment to the Holy Land overnight.

The critically wounded mayor was shot in the back on Monday by masked gunmen in the pro-Russian separatist province of Donetsk. It is still not clear who carried out the assassination attempt, or why. A number of cities have fallen to separatist efforts to take control.

“The plane departed from the Kharkov airport at 3:20 a.m. local time,” said a spokesperson for the Kharkov city council. Valery Boiko, director of surgery at the Kharkov Institute for General and Emergency Surgery, told Chabad.org the Jewish mayor had suffered severe damage to his thoracic organs and abdominal cavity.

“All we can do now is pray,” said Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and chief rabbi to Kharkov. He asked the public to pray for Moshe ben Chana, the Hebrew name of Mayor Kernes.

“He’s a good friend of the Jewish community, and has helped us in many ways,” the rabbi noted. “He’s very proud of his Jewish heritage; he received a Jewish name six years ago when he had a bris (circumcision) through us,” he told Chabad.org. “He puts on tefillin regularly, shakes lulav and esrog. We are all praying for him.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/critically-wounded-jewish-mayor-airlifted-from-ukraine-to-israeli-hospital/2014/04/29/

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