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July 6, 2015 / 19 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Ukraine Conflict Transforming to ‘Russia versus the West’

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Despite a cease-fire that went into effect one minute after midnight on Sunday, the conflict has apparently resumed between pro-Russia separatists and Ukraine government forces, but with clear Russian involvement.

The European Union has responded by activating sanctions against nine organizations and 19 people in Russia, including two Russian deputy defense ministers and Iosef Kobzon, age 77 — a Jewish man known as the “Russian Frank Sinatra.”

Kobzon is a long-time member of the Russian parliament. Sanctions were imposed against him because he “visited the so-called Donetsk People’s Repubic and during his visit made statements supporting separatists” after the Kremlin annexed Crimea, seizing it from Ukraine, the EU Official Journal explained. Donetsk is Kobzon’s birthplace.

For weeks the Russian-backed separatists have been focusing their attention on laying siege to the railway hub of Debaltseve, which so far has remained under the control of the Ukraine forces.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a briefing over the weekend that photos snapped in eastern Ukraine provided “credible pieces of evidence” that Russia herself – and not just separatist rebels – has been involved in the conflict.

“We are confident that [large amounts of artillery and multiple rocket launchers seen in the images around Debaltseve] are Russian military, not separatist systems,” Psaki said.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a phone conversation on Saturday to discuss the situation. Kerry expressed concern over what he called efforts by Russia and separatists to cut off the town ahead of the cease-fire.

Artillery fire was also exchanged in massive shootouts around the rebel-held regions of both Donetsk and Lugansk. Rocket attacks were directed at areas around the government-held Azov Sea port city of Mariupol on Saturday as well.

Last week a teacher at the Chabad-Lubavitch preschool was killed in Donetsk when a rocket slammed into her apartment, killing her instantly. Irina Shelkayeba was an active member of the Donetsk Jewish community and a teacher at the Ohr Avner Preschool, Rabbi Aryeh Schvartz told Chabad.org.

The Beth Menachem synagogue – the only synagogue left in Donetsk – survived a narrow miss in a rocket attack that followed Shelkayeba’s death the same day. Instead, a minibus in a bus station some 300 meters away was hit by a shell in an attack that followed on the heels of the one that killed Shelkayeba.

Four people were killed in that attack, including the driver of the bus, which was incinerated along with a nearby vehicle. Nevertheless, the synagogue’s morning minyan (quorum) gathered to pray the regular morning service 90 minutes later as it does each day. Emergency food and supply packages sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews were then distributed at the Jewish Community Center next door to the synagogue.

The city’s Chabad emissary, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski, said, “We have recently known many especially difficult and terrible days. I ask that Jews worldwide pray for their brethren in the war-torn territories – for everyone living in danger – and that they should all have peace and security.”

Putin Agrees to Cease-Fire in Ukraine

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday morning he has agreed to a cease-fire brokered by France and Germany to end the 10-month stand-off in Ukraine.

The deal is amends the cease-fire agreement last September that failed. Each side has agreed to retract heavy weapons, release all prisoners and allow more autonomy to separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The agreement does not settle all issues, and Germany’s foreign minister said it was not a “comprehensive solution”

The cease-fire is to begin on February 15.

Obama, Merkel Won’t ‘Allow Borders of Europe To Be Redrawn by Barrel of a Gun’

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Monday they would stand together in the battle to restrain Russia from swallowing European territory again.

Speaking with reporters following a meeting Monday at the Oval Office, Obama said he was “very encouraged about the extent to which we’ve been able to maintain U.S.-European unity on this issue.

“We are in absolute agreement that the 21st century cannot have us stand idle and allow the borders of Europe to be redrawn by the barrel of a gun,” Obama said.

But the president added there were “tactical disagreements” on how to proceed, should diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the crisis between pro-Russia separatists and Ukraine.

With the suggestion that military aid to Ukraine could be considered, “The possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined,” Obama said.

No decision has yet been made about that choice, however, which Merkel opposes.

“I’ve always said I don’t see a military solution in this conflict but we have to put all our efforts behind a diplomatic solution,” she said, speaking in German. “But if, at a certain point in time one has to say that a success is not possible, even if one puts every effort into it, then the United States and Europe have to sit together and try and explore further possibilities, what one can do.”

Talks in Munich and Kiev proved fruitless last week. A new attempt will be made this Wednesday in Minsk.

Western Leaders Head to Ukraine to Try for Peace with Russia

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all intend to try and make peace between Ukraine and Russia this week.

Kerry is already in Ukraine to show America’s support for the Kiev government.

Hollande told international media Thursday in Paris that he and Merkel would head first to Kiev and then to Moscow on Friday to present Russian President Vladimir Putin with a proposal “based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

NATO, meanwhile, is unveiling details of a plan to bolster its military presence in eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis, according to the BBC. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the news service it will be the biggest reinforcement of its collective defense since the end of the Cold War, centering on a “spearhead” force of up to 5,000 troops with lead units able to deploy within two days. A network of command centers is being established in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Stoltenberg said, in response to “the aggressive actions we have seen from Russia, violating international law and annexing Crimea.”

The French president described the months-long conflict with pro-Russia rebels that wreaked havoc in Ukraine as a full-fledged war. “Ukraine is at war. Heavy weapons are being used and civilians are being killed daily,” Hollande said.

Kerry told the BBC in Kiev that the U.S. wants to see a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but will not close its eyes to Russian aggression.

“We want a diplomatic resolution but we cannot close our eyes to tanks that are crossing the border from Russia and coming into Ukraine,” Kerry said at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

More than 5,000 people have died in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebel troops, some of which include Russian “volunteers,” since April 2014. The eastern Ukraine cities of Donetsk and Lugansk are both under rebel control.

Dead, Wounded as Donetsk Hospital Shelled in Eastern Ukraine

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

At least four people are dead according to the International Business Times and numerous others wounded after a hospital in the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk was shelled today in eastern Ukraine.

“There are multiple casualties at the hospital. A preliminary count says more than 15 people were killed,” local emergency services told the Interfax news agency.

In a statement on its website, the city administration confirmed there had been an attack on the hospital, saying “there was an artillery shell at 12 noon… the shell hit a hospital, there are dead and wounded.”

A correspondent for the Russia-based RT news service reported from the scene that rockets hit the hospital and an apartment building next door.

Nearby schools also were damaged in the blast, city officials said, which comes as European Union policy chief Federica Mogherini called for an immediate ceasefire to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone.

Last week scores of people were killed, including children, after pro-Russian separatists fired Grad missiles at a residential neighborhood in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, still held by Kiev government forces.

Mortar fire and rocket fire is regularly aimed at residential areas in the two main rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. Separatists who want to secede from Ukraine blame the Kiev government for the attacks.

A truce that had been arranged several months ago between rebel forces and Kiev collapsed in January.

“The OSCE monitors should investigate the site of the attack, determine the direction and the location from which the barrage was fired and report their findings,” said Andrey Purgin, spokesperson for the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples’ Republic.

According to the most recent estimate by the United Nations, at least 5,358 people have died in the revolt by pro-Russian Ukrainians.

Jews Struggling to Survive as Fighting Intensifies in Eastern Ukraine

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

In eastern Ukraine, Jews are scrambling to survive as fighting intensifies between Russian-backed rebels and the Ukraine army.

At least nine people were killed this morning (Jan. 22) when a civilian bus was shelled in the city of Donetsk, capital of the province bearing the same name. The Ukraine defense ministry told the BBC that its troops have retreated from the main terminal of Donetsk airport, which is not in use. The facility still has symbolic value for both sides, however, and the army’s loss of the terminal is a major victory for the rebels.

More than 4,800 have died and some 1.2 million are homeless since the rebels seized control last April over parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The move followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, a peninsula which belonged to Ukraine.

In the Lugansk (also called “Luhansk”) Jewish community, things have remained relatively quiet, according to local Jewish sources who asked for anonymity. But one can hear the sounds of war not far away, and a family can lose all its food if the house is left alone for more than a day.

Hungry neighbors feel no shame in foraging for anything they can find – anywhere – even in the homes of others.

Trains no longer go into Lugansk, a community member explains, and “the connection with Ukraine is growing dimmer by the day.”

For the Jews in the city, a major lifeline of support has been thrown by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. The organization funds Chabad-run refugee camps in the region, and sends thousands of care packages to needy Jewish families in the battered Donbass region. Likewise, Ohr Avner and the Rohr Family Foundation have been continued pillars of support essential to helping the Jews of eastern Ukraine survive.

Some Jews from the region have managed to reach Israel via aliyah already, but many still remain in Ukraine. Those who have chosen to escape the horror — even if it means moving to a strange new land and learning a new language — at least have a familiar face to greet them: exiled Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Lugansk, Rabbi Sholom Gopin and his wife Chana are in Israel too.

The Gopins were forced to move temporarily to Kfar Chabad due to the intense fighting in the region. Gopin told Chabad.org recently that he makes the three and a half hour flight back and forth to Ukraine often in order to visit community members and ensure that help gets through to those still living in Lugansk.

In Donetsk, not so far from Lugansk, the Jewish community is also struggling but has seen more violence. Last September, just before Rosh HaShanah, the community lost one of its prominent members to rebel banditry.

Garik Zylberbord, 47, was shot to death while trying to stop pro-Russian rebels from robbing his neighbor’s home. Zylberbord was a community leader and a long-time friend of the exiled chief rabbi and co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Donetsk, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski.

Having made plans to meet the rabbi in a few days in Kiev where Vishedski had been forced to flee with his family just two weeks prior, Zylberbord appeared earlier than planned, the rabbi noted sorrowfully: to attend his own funeral.

Vishedski and his wife Dina have set up a Donetsk Jewish community office in Kiev to help the lost and struggling Jews of his city who found refuge there and in other parts of Ukraine. “Calls start at the crack of dawn and don’t stop the entire day,” said Vishedski, “not only from poor families but now also from regular, middle-class people who also have no money or food right now.”

Exodus from France Leads Aliyah to 10-Year High

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Immigration to Israel hit a 10-year high in 2014  with the arrival of approximately  26,500 new immigrants, 32 percent higher than last year’s 20,000 new “olim.”

France for the first time topped the list of countries of origin for immigrants,  with nearly  7,000 Jews moving to Israel in 2014, double the 3,400 who came last year.

The other unusual rate of aliyah was from the Ukraine, from where 5,820 Jews moved to Israel, nearly three times the 2,020 who made aliyah in the previous year.

Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky chairman said, “2014 was a year of record-breaking Aliyah. This year also saw a historic shift: for the first time in Israel’s history, the number of immigrants who came to Israel from the free world is greater than that of immigrants fleeing countries in distress.

“This trend is evidence of Israel’s attractiveness as a place where it’s good to live, as well as of the success of our joint efforts to promote aliyah and strengthen connections between Jews around the world and the State of Israel.”

Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said that she expects that another 10,000 new immigrants will come from France in 2014.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/exodus-from-france-leads-aliyah-to-10-year-high/2014/12/31/

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