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Riots in Kiev, February 2014

In the wake of an escalation in clashes between Ukrainian protesters and government forces that have claimed the lives of more than 120 people in the past week, the Ukrainian Parliament voted Saturday to remove President Viktor Yanukovich from office and hold a new election on May 25. The Parliament also voted to free jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was then released Saturday from a prison hospital, Reuters reported. Yanukovich has fled his Kiev office.

On Friday Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman asked Kiev Jews to leave the city and, if possible, the country, due to fears that Jews might be targeted in the ongoing chaos. The Israel National News reported Friday that some Jewish shops have been vandalized and other threats to the Jewish community have been received.

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“I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too…I don’t want to tempt fate…but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions,” Rabbi Azman told Maariv.

Protesters first flooded Kiev’s Independence Square, known as “Maidan,” in November 2013 to protest Yanukovych’s decision to freeze plans to join a free trade agreement with the European Union. Instead, Yanukovych indicated an intention to join the Eurasian Customs Union, an economic union envisioned by Russian President Vladimir Putin that is viewed as a precursor to a wider Eurasian Union of Eastern European countries and the Caucausus.

Until Monday, the opposition and the Ukrainian government appeared to be working toward an agreement, but the deal fell through. On Tuesday, protesters and government forces violently clashed again, leading to many casualties on both sides of the conflict in the past week.

“We contacted (Israeli) Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman requesting he assist us with securing the community,” said Edward Dolinsky, head of the umbrella organization of Ukraine’s Jews.

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