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Nationalists and paramilitary groups, like Right Sector, played a small but significant role in the revolution. So, too, did ethnic Russians, Jews and other minorities who now hold key positions in Ukraine’s new interim national and local authorities.
The Ukrainian nationalist group Svoboda won four posts in Ukraine’s interim government. Russia has tarred Ukraine’s new rulers as “fascist.” It has warned of the increased dangers of racist and xenophobic attacks, including anti-Semitic assaults.
But some Ukrainian-Jewish leaders strongly oppose such allegations.
In an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, published March 4, a group of Ukrainian Jews said: “Your certainty about the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, which you expressed at your press-conference, also does not correspond to the actual facts.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, tends to agree.
Writing in the Huffington Post on March 14, Foxman said: “Russia’s claims about anti-Semitism in Ukraine’s revolution are simply not true. They are an effort to delegitimize the actions of the Ukrainian people and to win sympathy for Russia’s defiance of international law.”
But there has been a rash of unsolved anti-Semitic assaults and acts of vandalism in Ukraine since the beginning of this year. One man was beaten and another was stabbed in two assaults in Kiev in January.
Moreover, the incidents have not stopped since the new interim government took power.
On Friday, March 14, a man and his wife on their way to synagogue in Kiev were surrounded by youths shouting anti-Semitic slurs. They escaped in a taxi.
One day earlier, Rabbi Hillel Cohen was attacked on the street in Kiev. Cohen, who appeared on stage during the EuroMaidan protests in December, was struck in the leg and called a “kike.”