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August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Eyewitness Report from Ukraine: ‘You Can Feel the Tension in the Air’

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

DRUZHKOVA, UKRAINE – Tensions continue to mount in eastern Ukraine, as no obtainable solution is in sight. Reports of casualties continue to stream out of the provinces in dispute, and the residents of Ukraine don’t know what new reality they may encounter on a daily basis.

Most Ukrainians talk of a link to the West, but those in the east of the country feel a part of Russia. The Ukrainian Government has engaged in military action to maintain the entirety of its sovereign territory, a move which has brought to the escalation in violence and the rise in the death toll. As the two governments continue to wage battle, it seems the main question is how the Ukrainian residents of the east really view themselves; are they western Russians or eastern Ukrainians? Sergey Ovechinikov, a former resident of the eastern Donetsk Province talked to Tazpit News Agency about what he experienced in the past weeks and where he believes eastern Ukraine is headed.

Sergey lives in Cyprus and often visits his family who reside in the city of Druzhkovka, in northern Donetsk Province. “Everyone is expectant of some development; you can feel the tension in the air. I saw people erecting barricades in the city. I never thought I would see anything like this in my city. No one knows who is manning the barricades, some are locals, but they are surely organized by someone”

Sergey is apprehensive of the precarious security situation in the streets, describing a situation which is on the threshold of anarchy. “You get the sense the people really want to fight; some of the people manning the barricades are armed. There is currently no police force in the city. They withdrew, and there is a Russian flag flying over the police headquarters. All government buildings have Russian flags flying from them.”

Sergey points out that not all the residents of the area wish to become Russian citizens. Some have expressed objection to the flying of the Russian flags. “People have different opinions,” explains Sergey, “The streets seem to say that everyone wants to join Russia, but I don’t think everyone wants to make this move. Those who oppose unifying with Russia are afraid to voice their opinions, as they are the minority. Most of the population is Pro-Russian. At a situation close to war another view point is not relevant and no one wants to hear it. It seems like the region is on the brink of a civil war.”

Regardless of their political aspirations, all fear the pending economical collapse. “Everyone fears that their factories will shut down and they will lose their jobs.  The Ukraine Hryvnia has plummeted, and there is no fuel for heating in the area,” says Sergey.

Fear seems to be the primary sentiment expressed about the future in the region. “People fear that the new Ukrainian government will hunt down those are generating the pro-Russian actions. There are street battles between pro-Russian activities and pro-Ukrainian nationalists, although the majority here is hostile to anything Ukrainian – the flag, national anthem, state symbols and language. I think east Ukraine will never unify with the rest of the country,” concludes Sergey.

Ukraine’s future is shrouded in uncertainty, but it is clear the current course of change is unalterable. One is only left to hope the violence will not be the main actor in this change of scenes.

Israeli-American Journalist Held Hostage in Ukraine

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

An Israeli-American journalist has been kidnapped in Ukraine and is being held by separatists there, according to a report by the HBO-owned online news site Vice News.

Pro-Russian separatists were quoted Tuesday in the report, admitting they were holding reporter Simon Ostrovsky in the city of Slaviansk.

The news was announced by the self-declared mayor of the city, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, who held a news conference and told reporters “his men” were holding an American journalist with Israeli citizenship.

Ponomaryov did not specifically name Ostrovsky. But other journalists working in the area told Reuters that a group with him had been grabbed by the mayor’s men on Monday, and later freed. Unlike the rest, however, Ostrovsky was not released.

BBC journalist Graham Phillips uploaded a YouTube video documenting his efforts to track down Ostrovsky.

In the video, Phillips is heard requesting information about ‘Simon, Simon journalist’ from the self-declared mayor. Ponomaryov gruffly responds in guttural Russian that Ostrovsky will not be released any time soon. The footage is shaky because the cameraman is being knocked around by the numerous armed military guards, who are brandishing AK-47s as they threaten the news team. It is clear that Ostrovsky is being held hostage, and that his life is likely in danger – at best.

In some ways, the entire nightmarish scene brings to mind the hostage crisis years ago in Uganda. All the other journalists were let go – but the American with Israeli citizenship was held.

The kidnapped journalist has produced stories on Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the situation in Judea and Samaria.

For the past several weeks he has been covering the crisis in Ukraine. The last time he was heard from, he posted a tweet on the Twitter social networking site during the separatist mayor’s news conference on Monday. In that post, he commented that a woman working with the mayor’s group had “called us all liars” and asked for donations to pay for the funerals of ‘militants’ killed the previous day in a clash.

Egypt Plays US off Russia, Gets Military Aid Back

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

The US announced that they will begin delivering a dozen promised Apache helicopters to Egypt, as well as relaxing the suspension of military aid that was cancelled after Egypt’s military coup, which deposed the elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt receives $1.3 billion in annual military aid from the US for maintaining the peace treaty with Israel.

U.S. law required the aid be stopped after the military coup.

Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that Egypt has met some of its criteria for resuming aid, including, “upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said of Kerry, “He is certifying to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States.”

Full statement of Jen Psaki:

“Today, Secretary Kerry spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Fahmy to inform him that he is certifying to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States – including by countering transnational threats such as terrorism and weapons proliferation – and that Egypt is upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. He reaffirmed that Egypt remains, as it has been for decades, an important strategic partner for the United States. The Secretary noted that he is not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition. He urged Egypt to follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy – including by conducting free, fair, and transparent elections, and easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and the media – as Egypt will be more secure and prosperous if it respects the universal rights of its citizens.”

Kerry is planning to meet Egypt’s intelligence chief today, Wednesday, according to Al-Ahram.

On Tuesday, JewishPress.com reported that Egypt and Russia were set to sign an “unprecedented” deal, involving the sale 24 of Russia’s most advance fighter jets, the MiG-35, to Egypt, in a $3 Billion dollar deal, which comes in the footsteps of a $2 Billion dollar deal in February.

It was not clear who would actually be paying for these jets, much less when they would actually be ready to be delivered.

It would appear that Egypt played a masterful game of chicken, and the US (wisely) blinked first, rather than risk completely losing Egypt to a Russian bear hug.

US Has Proof Syrian Gov’t Poisoned Civilians

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

The United States has announced it possesses evidence the Syrian government is using chemical weapons against its own civilians.

In a statement released Monday at a State Department briefing in Washington, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “We have evidence of toxic chemical use in the area” of Kfar Zeita, near the city of Hama.

Opposition activists reported last week that Syrian Air Force helicopters dropped barrels of chlorine gas on the area. Video footage of the aftermath, posted by the CNN news network, showed unconscious civilians receiving medical treatment with oxygen masks.

“We are examining the accusations according to which the Syrian government is responsible for [the use of toxic chemicals,],” Psaki went on to say. “It is clear that there is a need to open an investigation into exactly what happened there. We take the reports very seriously and will work to make sure there is no breach of the agreement here.”

The spokesperson told reporters that chlorine gas had not been included among poisons on the list assembled by U.S. and Russian negotiator who last summer identified the chemical weapons to be neutralized.

Jews Ordered to ‘Register’ in Donetsk, Ukraine

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  For some Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine on this Passover holiday of “freedom,” concern and even fear is lurking in their thoughts, making them wonder about the lessons of the past.

On the first day of Passover this week, three armed men in the eastern Ukrainian province of Donetsk distributed flyers warning Jews to “register” themselves and their assets with the new pro-Russian government, according to the novosti.dn.ua website.

The flyers were handed out next to a synagogue as people were leaving following holiday prayers. They read as follows:

“Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,

Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported (Stepan) Bendery Junta, and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk, [the interim government] has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent age 16 and older, residing within the territory of the republic, are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register by May 3.

(Ed. Note: Stepan Bander was a Ukrainian nationalist leader in Kiev who fought with Nazi Germany in the 1940s against Soviet troops before switching sides and taking up arms against the German occupation.)

“ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles. Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revocation and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property. A registration fee of $50 is required.”

Pro-Russian separatists are occupying the building where the Jews were told the register.

The flyer was written in the Russian language and bore the symbol of Mother Russia at the top of the page and that of the Donetsk People’s Republic at the bottom. It was allegedly signed by Denis Pushilin, chairman of the Donetsk interim government but no ink signature is seen on the paper.

Donetsk was recently declared an independent “people’s republic” by pro-Russian activists. In response to a query by a Ukrainian Jewish website, Pushilin confirmed the flyers were indeed distributed by his organization. However, he was quoted by the tvrain.ru news site on Wednesday as denying any connection to the content, and called the flyers a ‘provocation.’

Nevertheless, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky told Voice of Israel government radio on Wednesday that aliyah from the Ukraine is likely to double by the end of 2014.

The flyer – authentic or not – constitutes the 17th anti-Semitic incident to have taken place in Ukraine since the beginning of 2014. Most were violent attacks. Several were aimed at Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and a few were life-threatening. Five took place in Kiev alone, according to statistics gleaned from the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism (CFCA) website.

A reader on the Israel Matzav blog warned in a number of posts that the situation in Ukraine is becoming extremely dangerous for Jews.

Wisely, a Jewish resident of Donetsk told Ynet that she does not intend to register, although she said that she had never encountered any form of anti-Semitism until she saw the flyer. “Though I take it very seriously, I am uncertain of its authenticity,” she said.

Aliyah Up by 14 Percent in First Three Months of 2014

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Aliyah to Israel increased by 14 percent from January to the end of March, with the most impressive numbers coming from Russia and France, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Russia led the aliyah number list with 899 new immigrants, followed by France with 802.

One veteran French immigrant told The Jewish Press that despite the flight to Israel from France, plagued by violent anti-Semitism, there is a far greater exodus of Jews to the United States and Canada.

The third largest source of new immigrants so far this year is the United States, from where 203 arrived, and another 23 came from Canada.

The total number of new immigrants for the first three months of this year is 3,623.

Putin Ally Accused Of Pushing Jews-Killed-Jesus Theme

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

A St. Petersburg city councilman from Russia’s ruling party made statements suggesting that Jews killed Jesus.

Vitaly Milonov made the statements last month during a meeting of the St. Petersburg City Council, where he serves as a lawmaker for President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, the svodka.net news website reported this week.

“They vilify any saint, it is in their tradition of 2,000 years, beginning with the appeals to crucify the Savior, ending with accusations of anti-Semitism against St. John of Kronstadt,” Milonov said during a March 19 speech before the city’s legislative council, according to the report.

Milonov was advocating a bill that proposes to declare June 14 a municipal holiday in honor of John of Kronstadt, a 19th century leader of the Orthodox Russian Church. His legacy remains controversial because of his membership in the Black Hundred, an ultranationalist and declaredly anti-Semitic movement that supported pogroms against Jews.

But Milonov said such criticism was based on “complete lies, a modern neo-liberal fable with a sulfuric, deep history of Satanism.”

The Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and the Russian Jewish Congress condemned Milonov’s remarks.

“In his words, the Russian Jewish community sees a common set of anti-Semitic stereotypes, starting with the traditional accusations of the crucifixion of Christ and ending with a veiled reference to modern Russian Jewry as ‘neo-liberal’ politicians,” the federation wrote in a statement published on its website.

Occurring on the heels of an anti-Semitic remark made on Russian state television, in which a television anchorwoman asserted that the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves, the affair comes at a sensitive time for Putin’s administration, which has cited perceived anti-Semitism among Ukrainian revolutionaries as a justification for Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula last month.

Ukraine saw a spate of anti-Semitic attacks since the eruption of revolution in November against the government of former president Vicktor Yanukovych over his perceived pro-Russian policies. He was ousted from power in February by a provisional government ahead of an election slated for May.

Milonov is the same politician who has proposed that Russia outlaw the “promotion” of homosexuality, grant full citizenship to embryos and forcing women who have not given birth by the age of 23 to join the army.

He argues, “I don’t want children to get the wrong idea that traditional and non-traditional forms of partnerships are equal – they are not equal…. But a video clip by say, Madonna, in which she is kissing another woman that can be seen by children is gay propaganda. Children like to copy their role models.”

Below Milonov proves he is jerk in an interview with  Stephen Fry, a British comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and a homosexual.

(JTA contributed to this report.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/putin-ally-accused-of-pushing-jews-killed-jesus-theme/2014/04/02/

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