Ummmmm, so this is terrifying. USA Today:
"Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to 'register' with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.
"Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city's Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee 'or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,' reported Ynet News, Israel's largest news website.
"Donetsk is the site of an anti-terrorist' operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia.
"The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of 'Donetsk's temporary government,' and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas, according to the report."
Sadly, anti-Semitism is frighteningly common in Russian society, as disgraced and discredited LGBT advocate Nikolai Alekseev reminded us last year. Jews, like LGBT people, are often scapegoated to appeal to the nationalist prejudices of the majority. This latest escalation has disturbing echoes of Naziism (Ukraine was under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1944).
Approximately 17,000 Jews live in the Donetsk province; estimates of Ukraine's total Jewish population range between 67,000 and 400,000.
Post updates are after the jump.
UPDATE, 1:05 P.M. EDT: Just heard Secretary of State John Kerry repeating this story on NPR's hourly national newscast. These appear to be credible claims, folks. Sickening.
UPDATE, 1:45 P.M. EDT: CNN reports on Kerry's statement:
Jews in one Ukrainian city were were sent notes "indicating that they have to identify themselves as Jews," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.
"In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it's grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities -- from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of -- there is no place for that."
All parties at international talks on the Ukraine crisis Thursday unanimously condemned anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance, Kerry said.
UPDATE, 4:30 P.M. EDT: The Washington Post fills out the story and adds some reassuring context:
While the content of the letter is obviously offensive, there are plenty of reasons to be a little cautious about this story, and groups like the Anti-Defamation League have been careful to add in news releases that they were "skeptical about the flier's authenticity."
It certainly seems possible that the flier was the work of pro-Russia separatists, working with or without the support or knowledge of Pushilin. At this stage, however, it is also possible that the letter was written by someone seeking to discredit Pushilin and the separatist government, as Novosti.dn.ua reported.
Our reporters in Donetsk have spoken to members of the Jewish community, who say that while the letters do appear to have been handed out, it doesn't seem to be a big deal.
Whatever actually happened, there is one clear takeaway here: With both sides accusing the other of being "Nazis," and accusing the other of anti-Semitism, Eastern Ukraine's Jewish community is having an especially tough time during the Ukrainian crisis.
Click here for their full report.
Photo: Olga Reznikova