Ukraine: authenticity of anti-Semitic leaflets under scrutiny in Donetsk


Photo of leaflet handed out in Donetsk, uploaded onto the website of the 'Jewish Community of Donetsk'.


Ukraine’s Jews have become the latest pawns in an escalating propaganda war between Kiev and pro-Russian separatist militias. Leaflets telling Jews to register their identities have been handed out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, supposedly by pro-Russian militants. But the true identity of the culprits has come under close scrutiny.


US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the leaflet as ‘grotesque’. Yet the flyer – a disturbing reminder of bygone times - has already been widely dismissed as a hoax. They were reportedly distributed by masked pro-Russian militias outside one of the city’s synagogues, but that claim has been flatly denied by separatists. The leaflet orders Jews to register at a government building currently occupied and used as a headquarters by separatist militants. They’re also asked to pay a $50 registration fee and told to list all their property. Failure to do so, according to the flyer, would result in their ‘deportation’. According to the World Jewish Congress, 17,000 Jews currently live in Donetsk. As of yet, there are no reports of any of them registering.


The official-looking flyer bears the signature of Denis Pushilin, the man who heads the ‘People’s Republic of Donetsk’ – a breakaway movement that seeks to sever ties with the new administration in Kiev. It also bears the symbol of both the Russian Federation and Donetsk’s self-proclaimed pro-Russian administration. Yet Pushilin himself has ridiculed the leaflets, denying any link and calling those responsible for handing them out “idiots”. In a statement published on its website, the ‘Jewish Community of Donetsk’ dismissed it as a provocation aimed at creating fear.


Since tensions began rising between Kiev and Moscow, the Russian government has actively played up the presence of neo-Nazis, fascists and anti-Semitics within the ranks of pro-European - or EuroMaidan - protesters. Many pro-Russian militants cite the role of fascists and anti-Semitics in the new Kiev administration to justify their action. So it comes as a surprise to find an anti-Semitic tract attributed to the headquarters of the separatist movement. While it’s possible that pro-Russian forces distributed the leaflets, they could also have been handed out by people looking to discredit the pro-Russian separatist movement.