Jews over 16 in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk are being told to pay a special tax and register their identities with the pro-Russian militants who have taken over the town, according to multiple reports.
Early in the Euromaidan revolution that swept Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, a Russian ally, from power in Kiev, pro-Russian media had sought to portray Euromaidan as an anti-semitic, fascist-led movement that would wreak havoc on the Ukraine's Jews. But if the Donetsk orders are to believed, it's Russian forces and their proxies that now threaten Jews' safety and freedom of movement.
The orders were distributed on flyers throughout the city, according to the wire service JTA and USA TODAY. Those flyers bear the name and signature of Denis Pushilin, leader of the Russian-sympathetic separatist rebels who wrested control of Donetsk from Ukraine earlier in the month. Pushilin's forces have since patrolled the streets in black ski masks, AK47s slung over their shoulders.
Pushilin confirmed to one source that the flyers belonged to his group, which is calling itself "Donetsk's temporary government," although elsewhere he distanced himself from the flyers' content.
The leaflets, which accuse Ukraine's Jews of supporting nationalist, pro-Nazi leaders instead of "pro-Slavic" forces in World War II, were distributed on streets and around synagogues by masked men, according to JTA:
The flyers in Donetsk said all Jews who are 16 years old and above should register at the government building, which separatist protesters are occupying, and pay a registration fee of $50 by May 3.
"Jews supported the nationalistic gang of [Stepan] Bandera in Kiev," the authors wrote in reference to the Ukrainian Nationalist leader who in the 1940s fought with Nazi Germany against Soviet troops before he and his men took up arms against the German occupation.
The flyers also said Jews were hostile to the Donetsk Republic.
They were required to report any real estate and automobiles, the flyers also said.
Should Ukrainians of "Jewish nationality" fail to comply, they will lose their citizenship and "be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property," the flyers state.
Update: The New Republic's excellent reporter and Eurasia expert Julia Ioffe reports that Ukrainian Jewish leaders believe the flyers may have been a provocation by pro-Ukrainian elements to paint the Donetsk separatists as anti-semitic. "The Jews of Donetsk and eastern Ukraine may have been asked by a leaflet to register, but it has not been enforced nor are any Ukrainian Jews registering themselves," she writes.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kerry cited the flyers as "grotesque" evidence of anti-semitic jockeying in the Ukraine crisis, and the Anti-Defamation League issued a condemnation of the flyer, regardless of its origins. "We are skeptical about the flier's authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community," ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said in a press statement:
"We have seen a series of cynical and politically manipulative uses and accusations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine over the past year. The perpetrators and their targets are opposing politicians and political movements, but the true victims are the Jewish communities."
[Donetsk rebel photo via AP; Photo of the flyer below via antisemitism.org.il]