Earlier Thursday, reports surfaced that leaflets were distributed earlier in the week in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk demanding Jews register with a government office.

We waited to report the information here at Legal Insurrection because of conflicting reports on the story and questions about the authenticity of the leaflets.

And then of course, there is the question of whether this is part of a propaganda campaign from one or both sides in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Let’s start with the earlier reports.

Here is an earlier article from 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 Ukrainian and 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 news was carried first by the Ukraine’s Donbass news agency.

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 reports.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the leaflets, regardless of where they came from.

From CNN:

Jews in one Ukrainian city 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.”

Earlier reports, including the USA Today article (citing Ynet), claim that “Pushilin acknowledged that flyers were distributed under his organization’s name in Donetsk, but denied any connection to them.”

Other reports quote Pushilin as blaming others who wish to make the separatists look bad and provoke more trouble.

From NY Magazine (yes, that’s a ThinkProgress link below, but relevant):

But Denis Pushilin, the Russian separatist whose name is on the flyers, claims he has nothing to do with them, and that the documents were spread to make his side look bad.

“Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property,” reads the flyer, according to a translation. It also lists a $50 fee for doing so.

“Some idiots yesterday were giving out these flyers in targeted areas,” hoping “to blame the attack on separatists,” said Pushilin.

The Daily Beast also noted that when a reporter went to the building and room indicated on the leaflet to check things out, the office was empty.

Mashable later published a statement from the Anti-Defamation League questioning the authenticity of the leaflets while also condemning the messaging.

“The ADL today condemned the appearance of anti-Semitic fliers in Donetsk, Ukraine, and called on all parties involved in the political conflicts in Ukraine to refrain from ‘cynical and politically manipulative’ exploitation of anti-Semitism,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.

“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,” he said.

“We have seen a series of cynical and politically manipulative uses and accusations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine over the past year,” said Mr. Foxman. “The perpetrators and their targets are opposing politicians and political movements, but the true victims are the Jewish communities. We strongly condemn the anti-Semitic content, but also all attempts to use anti-Semitism for political purposes.”

CNN offered information about conflicting reports in this video report:

The situation in Ukraine has presented many challenges in reporting, as details are often murky and reports and facts often difficult to confirm, on all sides of the conflict.  They also frequently change throughout any given day (sometimes after I’ve already written a post).

Many of the facts in this case too still remain unclear at this time.

Perhaps what’s most important in this particular story is that wherever the leaflet came from, whatever its true intended purpose, it deserves condemnation.


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