Controversial parade not the way to honour Ukraine’s contribution to Second World War

Sigh…

On April 28, approximately 250 people marched through the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the Second World War Waffen SS Division Galicia.

That’s right folks, hundreds of people gathered, despite the threat of spreading the COVID-19 virus, to commemorate Ukrainian soldiers who took an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and fought for Nazi Germany.

This parade drew an immediate backlash from Germany’s ambassador to Ukraine, Anka Feldhusen. She tweeted: “Waffen SS units participated in the worst war crimes and the Holocaust during WW2. No volunteer organizations fighting and working for Ukraine today should be associated with them.”

This blatant display of Nazi glorification was also condemned by the Israeli ambassador in Kiev and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Sadly, there was no such reaction from the Canadian Embassy nor from the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada presently has more than 200 military trainers assisting the Ukrainian armed forces in the face of Russian aggression.

For the regime in Kiev to not only allow a tribute to Hitler’s SS to take place, but to also provide the marchers with a police escort, flies in the face of all those Canadian soldiers who fought and died in Second World War to defeat the Nazi regime.

For the record, and before the apologists claim this event was an exercise in “free speech,” Ukraine cancelled this year’s May 9 traditional public celebration of the Second World War Victory Day due to COVID-19 concerns.

Ukrainians were prevented from gathering to celebrate the defeat of Hitler, but allowed to parade in commemoration of Ukrainians who volunteered to fight for the Nazis?

The U.S. State Department did not directly condemn the parade but in a statement to The Nation they noted “We welcome [Ukraine] President Zelensky’s strong statement condemning the march.” However, they added the comment that the U.S. State Department “continues to monitor and systematically refute a longstanding Russian disinformation campaign that conflates support for Ukrainian sovereignty with support for neo-Nazi and fascist ideals.”

Here is a little bit of free advice for those concerned about Russian disinformation: just put an end to parades and events that glorify Hitler’s Waffen SS.

While I can understand that Ukrainians are proud of their heritage, I cannot fathom why young nationalists seek to glorify those who took up arms to enforce the Nazis’ ideology. Yes, I understand that Stalin imposed ruthless measures against the people of Ukraine and that they suffered horribly under the Soviet regime.

However, the fact that Ukrainian men took up arms to fight the Red Army as members of the Waffen SS does not change the reality that Hitler’s Nazis perpetrated the Holocaust.

Of all the incredible accomplishments that Ukrainians have achieved throughout history—music, literature, cuisine, art, etc.—I cannot fathom why it is a flawed military unit that fought for Hitler that these young Ukrainians have chosen to revere.

Formed in 1943, the SS Galicia Division only really fought one major engagement against the Soviets in the Battle of Brody in July 1944.

The SS Galicia was soundly defeated and it was subsequently relegated to fighting against partisans, first in Slovakia and then in Yugoslavia.

For those who would paint the SS Galicia volunteers as fighters for Ukraine’s independence, this theory cannot be justified in view of the fact they actually fought against civilian patriots in Slovakia and Slovenia to enforce Hitler’s Nazi occupation.

In the final days of the war, the SS Galicia changed its name to the 1stUkrainian Division prior to surrendering to the allies in Austria.

After a lengthy internment in Italy, many of these Ukrainian SS veterans emigrated to Canada. There is actually a memorial erected to the memory of the SS Galicia division in Oakville, Ont.

That said, it is estimated that more than 40,000 Ukrainian Canadians served in the Canadian military during the Second World War, fighting to defeat Hitler.

It is those brave, patriotic Ukrainian-Canadians that Canada needs to remember. It will make it far easier for our government to publicly denounce any future Nazi-glorification in Ukraine.

Source: Controversial parade not the way to honour Ukraine’s contribution to Second World War

Ukraine Foreign Minister Kuleba: We plan to allow dual citizenship with EU countries | KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice

Canada most likely will be included among the “friendly” countries included:

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced plans to allow dual citizenship in Ukraine with the EU countries.

“What did you see in the NSDC decision? You saw the outlines of the state’s position, which should be reflected in the future in the legislation regarding the participation of persons with dual or multiple citizenships in the state life of Ukraine. The policy that we will implement consists of two elements. We plan to allow dual citizenship with the EU and friendly countries, which do not pose any threat to us, and the list of these countries will be calibrated, it will depend on some criteria,” Kuleba said at an online briefing on March 5.

According to him, this will be an opportunity to keep the halo of the Ukrainian presence in the world as a whole, and a citizen of Ukraine who has left for permanent residence, for example, to an EU country, in the future will be able to become a citizen of this country and remain at the same time the part of Ukraine, preserve the Ukrainian passport.

“We need to keep together millions of Ukrainians scattered around the world, we must not interfere with their integration into the society in which they decided to continue their lives, but we must, as a state, make every effort to keep them Ukrainians, so that they stay connected with their homeland, so that they will be Ukraine’s lawyers in a new society,” Kuleba said.

At the same time, he indicated that a number of restrictions on dual citizenship for parliament members and ministers would be established. Also, dual citizenship with the Russian Federation will not be allowed.

“I am a consistent supporter of this idea, we are working with the MPs on the appropriate legislative amendments. There is one exception – this is an aggressor state, there can be no talk of any dual citizenship with it,” the minister said.

Kuleba added that this is a policy that still needs to find its legislative formulation, its implementation.

Source: Kuleba: We plan to allow dual citizenship with EU countries | KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice

Dual citizenship: Zelensky enacts NSDC decision on threats to national security

Aimed at Russian citizenship, will likely impact some Ukrainian Canadians:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has put into effect the National Security and Defense Council’s decision to counter threats to national security in the field of citizenship, the President’s Office has reported.

“President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky signed decree No. 85/2021, which puts into effect the National Security and Defense Council decision of February 26, 2021 ‘On urgent measures to counter threats to national security in the field of citizenship’,” the document reads.

According to the NSDC decision, the Cabinet of Ministers, together with the Central Election Commission and the Security Service of Ukraine, must conduct an inventory and analyze Ukrainian legislation on issues related to dual (multiple) citizenship within two months.

In particular, it is necessary to establish the presence or absence of legal certainty of the prohibition of citizens of Ukraine, who have the citizenship of a foreign state, to hold certain state and political positions or to perform the functions of state or local self-government.

Based on the results of such an analysis, the government must submit to the Verkhovna Rada within six months the draft laws that would prohibit Ukrainian citizens, who have the citizenship of a foreign state or have submitted documents (undergoing the procedure) for acquiring foreign citizenship, to apply for performing state or local government functions, to apply for holding senior positions at strategic state-owned facilities, to have access to state secrets, to be a member of an election commission, an official observer or to conduct election campaigning in national and local elections, and to be a member of a political party.

“It is also necessary to develop and submit to parliament a procedure for confirming the refusal and renunciation of the citizenship of a foreign state for citizens of Ukraine who apply for the above positions,” the statement said.

In addition, a procedure should be introduced at the legislative level for citizens of Ukraine to submit declarations on the acquisition of foreign citizenship. This procedure will be put into effect for residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk regions and Crimea only after the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Liability must be established for the submission of inaccurate information in declarations about the absence of foreign citizenship.

According to the NSDC decision, the government should also start an interstate dialogue on concluding bilateral agreements with interested states, except for the aggressor state, aimed at resolving issues related to dual (multiple) citizenship.

Source: Dual citizenship: Zelensky enacts NSDC decision on threats to national security

One million passports: Putin has weaponized citizenship in occupied eastern Ukraine

Of note:

Moscow plans to issue one million Russian passports to residents of Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine by the end of 2020, officials confirmed last week. By creating new demographic facts on the ground, the Kremlin hopes to alter the geopolitical balance in the region and derail efforts to end the six-year undeclared war between Russia and Ukraine. Despite these grave consequences, the international community has yet to impose any additional sanctions on Russia. Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin is able to continue pursuing policies of passport imperialism in Ukraine with apparent impunity.

Speaking on June 9 in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, United Russia MP Viktor Vodolatsky confirmed that more than 180,000 Ukrainians had received Russian passports since the introduction of a new fast-track procedure a little over a year ago. According to Vodolatsky, a further 98,000 applications are currently being processed and up to 800,000 more passports are expected to be issued in the second half of the current year.

Plans for simplified passport distribution in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine were first unveiled in April 2019, just days after Volodymyr Zelenskyy has won the Ukrainian presidency via a landslide victory. Throughout the spring 2019 Ukrainian presidential election campaign, Zelenskyy had been markedly less confrontational towards Russia than his rival, the incumbent Petro Poroshenko. This had led to widespread speculation that Zelenskyy’s election could serve to break the deadlock in a peace process that had witnessed little concrete progress since the end of large-scale hostilities in early 2015.

This initial optimism was soon tempered by the publication of Putin’s presidential decree granting Ukrainians from the occupied east of the country the right to apply for Russian passports via a special streamlined procedure. “These actions are yet more confirmation for the world community of Russia’s true role as an aggressor state, which is waging a war against Ukraine,” commented Zelenskyy at the time. “Unfortunately, this decree does not bring us closer to the ultimate goal of a ceasefire.”

Emboldened by the lack of a robust international response to his initial decree, Putin then escalated his passport imperialism against Ukraine. The Russian leader issued a second decree on July 17, 2019 that extended the citizenship offer to all Ukrainians living in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – the two eastern regions of Ukraine that are currently under partial Russian occupation.

This is far from the first time the Kremlin has employed passports as a foreign policy tool to project its influence across the former Soviet Union. The tactic was first seen in Moldova in the early 1990s. The distribution of Russian passports also helped cement Moscow’s grip on the two breakaway regions of Georgia prior to the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Meanwhile, Russian passports have played an important role in the Kremlin’s Crimean policy, both before and after the 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Putin’s passport ploy in eastern Ukraine is as clear an indication as you could possibly wish for that Russia has no intention of allowing Ukraine to regain full control over the occupied regions. If the Kremlin’s current forecasts are accurate, there will be one million Russian citizens living in occupied eastern Ukraine by the end of 2020, representing at least a quarter of the entire population. This will transform the so-called separatist republics of eastern Ukraine into Russian passport protectorates.

With Russian citizens representing a large percentage of the region’s overall population, Moscow will claim the legal right to intervene at will in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Such arguments bear little relation to the realities of international law. Nevertheless, they represent a far more convincing pretext for endless interference than the protestations about oppressed Russian-speakers that Moscow has relied upon since Russia’s military intervention began in 2014.

The war Russia unleashed six years ago is far from over and Moscow remains as committed as ever to limiting Ukraine’s independence. Putin’s passport imperialism is central to these ongoing efforts, offering the potential to entrench Russian influence in the country while fatally weakening Ukrainian sovereignty. If it is allowed to proceed unimpeded in occupied eastern Ukraine, the same strategy could then be expanded to additional regions throughout the country, allowing Russia to slowly but surely undermine the Ukrainian government’s ability to function. Sadly, there is nothing particularly far-fetched or fanciful about such nightmare scenarios. Indeed, the passport distribution phase is already underway in unoccupied parts of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has framed its passport offensive as a purely humanitarian policy designed to ease the suffering of a population trapped in a conflict zone, but these claims are no more credible than the Kremlin’s attempts to portray its well-equipped proxy armies in eastern Ukraine as a ragtag collection of disgruntled miners and tractor drivers. In reality, the weaponization of Russian citizenship is a well-known element of the hybrid arsenal developed by the Kremlin since 1991 and deployed throughout the former USSR as Moscow has fought to retain its imperial influence.

Only an emphatic international response can now prevent the Kremlin from using the same passport tactics to consolidate control over occupied eastern Ukraine and destabilize the rest of the country indefinitely. The European Commission has already taken steps to prevent EU member states from recognizing passports issued via Putin’s April 24, 2019 decree. Further measures targeting the Kremlin are also necessary, including additional sanctions.

Russia is currently in the process of establishing passport protectorates in eastern Ukraine. It is doing so methodically and shamelessly, in front of the watching world. If such brazen aggression is allowed to go unpunished, it will lead to a further erosion of international security, with implications that will be felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine.

Source: One million passports: Putin has weaponized citizenship in occupied eastern Ukraine

A Black Metal Festival in Ukraine This Weekend Is the Neo-Nazi Networking Event of the Year

Never knew of this disturbing genre of music but not surprised that the far right has a cultural aspect:

Hundreds of far-right extremists will converge on Ukraine’s capital this weekend for a “militant black metal” music festival that experts say has become a networking hub in the international neo-Nazi scene.

Asgardsrei, which will be held Saturday and Sunday in Kyiv’s Bingo Club, bills itself online as a black metal festival that has “grown into the largest (and certainly the most radical)” in the region.

“2 days, 14 bands, 1,500 places, 0 tolerance,” its website reads.

Researchers say the festival is a showcase for the explicitly neo-Nazi musical genre known as “national Socialist black metal,” or NSBM. The lineup features acts with violent anti-Semitic lyrics, referencing the Holocaust and swastikas, and featuring anti-Jewish slurs. One of the bands, Stutthof, is named after a Nazi concentration camp, while another, the French band Seigneur Voland, has a track titled “Quand les Svastikas étoilaient le Ciel” (“When Swastikas Light Up the Sky”).

Another act, the Greek band Wodulf, has a track with the lyrics: “Standards of Aryan might unfurl in triumph / Immortal loyalty to the swastika.” Footage from last year’s festival shows members of the audience widely giving the Nazi salute during performances.

“The organizers have been very clever in connecting almost the complete European neo-Nazi scene.”

Far-right experts say the festival, now in its fifth year in Kyiv, has become an important networking hub for the transnational white supremacy movement. The festival was organized by individuals linked to Ukraine’s powerful far-right Azov movement, the ultranationalist group that played a major role in the revolution and the war against Russian-backed separatists in the east. It also includes a mixed-martial arts “fight night” by an Azov-affiliated fight club on Friday night.

The festival has previously drawn extremists from groups including the U.S.-based neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division, Germany’s The Third Path party, and Italy’s neofascist CasaPound.

“It’s established itself as the major festival of the national Socialist black metal scene,” said Thorsten Hindrichs, a musicologist at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz who specializes in far-right music subcultures.

He told VICE News that the festival provided an important point of contact for disparate far-right groups in their project “to build a pan-European community of right-wing extremists.”

“The organizers have been very clever in connecting almost the complete European neo-Nazi scene,” Hindrichs added.

Mollie Saltskog, an intelligence analyst at strategic consultancy firm The Soufan Group, said that festival organizers had boasted last year that they had “almost a thousand foreigners” at the event. Among them were members of Atomwaffen Division, including the leader of the group’s Washington State cell, Kaleb James Cole, who spent 18 days in Ukraine as part of 25-day trip through Europe.

“It’s likely that many prominent figures within the transnational white supremacy movement, both in and outside of Ukraine, will participate in the concert and surrounding activities this weekend in Kyiv,” Saltskog told VICE News.

“It’s an opportune moment for members of the transnational movement to meet up, network, forge international connections, and exchange tactics and experiences to bring back home to their own ‘fight.’” Saltskog continued.

Ahead of last year’s festival, she said, Azov had hosted an international conference of far-right ideologues, where they discussed topics such as “Nordic Paganism as Metaphysics.”

Hindrichs said Kyiv had become a “safe space” where events like Asgardsrei could take place without disruption from authorities or protesters. He said the festival’s growing importance on the international far-right scene meant it warranted closer attention from Western security services to monitor the contacts their extremists were potentially making in Kyiv.

“There’s horrifying things going on there,” he said. “It would be a good idea to try to stop people attending.”

A global hub

According to Haaretz, Asgardsrei was founded by Russian neo-Nazi Alexey Levkin, a far-right dissident who came to Ukraine in 2014 to support Azov, which has since actively forged links with like-minded groups elsewhere.

Levkin describes himself as an ideologist “who gives lectures in culture, history, and contemporary political thought” to National Militia — the paramilitary street wing of the sprawling Azov movement, which also has a regiment incorporated into Ukraine’s national army, as well as its own political party, National Corps.

As well as fronting his own band, M8L8TH, which will be performing at Asgardsrei, Levkin is also a key member in Wotanjugend — a Ukraine-based neo-Nazi group that has promoted a Russian-language translation of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto. Saltskog said Wotanjugend was “originally established in Russia, but uses Ukraine as a base to operate and spread its neo-Nazi ideology and message of hate, under what appears to be the patronage of Azov.”

Levkin told VICE News that “only two or three bands on the line-up could really be considered NSBM” acts — including his own act, M8L8TH.

Levkin denied the festival had become a networking hub for the far-right and explained it was “first and foremost about breaking … taboos.”

“We respect any artists who dare to truly challenge the dominant narrative of the contemporary Western society,” he said.

And when asked if he considered himself a national socialist, he replied: “Yes, sure!”

Researchers said the event highlighted the way Ukraine, through the influence of Azov and affiliated far-right movements, has emerged as a global hub for right-wing extremists since the outbreak of war. In recent years, events like Asgardsrei have drawn foreign radicals to Ukraine to network with Azov-affiliated extremists, where they have documented their presence at far-right subcultural events like concerts and MMA tournaments on social media.

Meanwhile, Azov has pursued an outreach program to cultivate links with far-right groups internationally. Olena Semenyaka, international secretary for Azov’s political party who has strong ties to Levkin, traveled to meet contacts in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Croatia, and Portugal in the past year.

Last week, a far-right Ukrainian group even turned up on the frontlines of the Hong Kong protests, which sparked concerns they could be attempting to learn lessons from the pro-democracy demonstrations to use in violent street protests at home.

Kuleba: Ukrainians from diaspora should be allowed dual citizenship

Ongoing discussions and floating of the idea:

Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Dmytro Kuleba believes that granting Ukrainians the right to dual citizenship will allow Ukraine to more effectively use the potential of compatriots from the diaspora who seek to help their homeland.

The told the ZN.UA (Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.Ukraine) there are several reasons for granting Ukrainians the right to dual citizenship (he emphasized that he expressed his personal opinion, not the one of the entire government).

“If new representatives of the diaspora with Canadian or U.S. citizenship but ready to work for our country appear in the Ukrainian government in the future, the Ukrainian state should have a ready-made model of cooperation with them but not invent all kinds of schemes,” the deputy prime minister said.

He believes that liberalization of citizenship policy will make it possible to keep in the Ukrainian space millions of Ukrainians who left Ukraine and obtained the citizenship of another country, but who want to keep in touch with their homeland.

“We should not tear these people away. We have already lost so many,” the official added.

In addition, according to Kuleba, the state’s tolerant attitude towards second citizenship will solve the issue of tens of thousands of Ukrainians having Hungarian and Romanian passports, which many received only for the sake of a quiet movement in the European Union. By and large, according to the deputy premier, this should remove one of the acute problems in relations between Ukraine and neighboring countries.

At the same time, Kuleba categorically rejects the possibility of Ukraine’s recognizing Russian citizenship as the second one.

“The right of dual citizenship should not under any circumstances apply to the aggressor country,” he said.

Source: Kuleba: Ukrainians from diaspora should be allowed dual citizenship

Canadian officials honour Nazi collaborators in Ukraine, angering Jewish groups

Not quite as simple as portrayed: see tweet from former Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Andrew Robinson:

The Canadian Forces and Global Affairs Canada are facing criticism after honouring members of Ukrainian organizations that helped the Nazis in the Second World War.

Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk spoke at an Aug. 21 ceremony that unveiled a monument in Sambir to honour members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), two groups that are linked to the killing of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles.

The event has been condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee who warn the memorial whitewashes the role of Ukrainian collaborators in the Holocaust.

“All Jews of Sambir were murdered by Nazis and their collaborators from OUN and UPA,” Eduard Dolinsky, director-general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee based in Kiev, told Postmedia.

The monument, which is at the edge of a cemetery holding the remains of more than 1,200 Jews murdered by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators, is a desecration and “double murder of the Jewish victims,” Dolinsky said. “It’s like putting a monument to killers on the top of the graves of their victims.”

Global Affairs Canada said the Sambir event was intended to assist efforts by the Jewish community in Canada and Ukraine to build public support to create an eventual memorial for the Jewish cemetery in the town. That was the reason for Waschuk’s attendance and to suggest otherwise would be false, the department said.

The memorial is to 17 members of the OUN who the Ukrainians say were killed by the Nazis. Waschuk, in his speech at the ceremony, paid tribute to the murdered Jews, Ukrainians who tried to help them and “those Ukrainians who fought against the Nazi regime as members of OUN-UPA.”

Members of the OUN-UPA supported the Nazis and helped round up and execute Jews after the Germans invaded Ukraine, according to Holocaust historians. At one point, they broke away from their support of the Nazis, but later joined forces again with Germany. In 1943 the UPA started massacring Polish civilians, killing an estimated 100,000 men, women and children, according to historians.

The Canadian Forces said in a statement that military personnel were requested by the Canadian embassy in Ukraine to attend. The attendance was “part of a whole government effort to champion tolerance in a democratic Ukraine and reiterate that totalitarian regimes (in both past and contemporary times, and under all guises) have done injustices to Ukrainians,” the statement said.

Jewish organizations have been trying for years to erect a memorial at the Jewish cemetery. But Sambir locals have resisted that, removing the Star of David at the site and instead erecting three large Christian crosses on the Jewish cemetery. A compromise was eventually reached; in exchange for removing the crosses, a memorial to the dead OUN-UPA would be erected.

Waschuk called the memorial “a monument of love to one’s motherland. And a motherland must know how to defend itself so that it does not suffer again from waves of inhuman totalitarian terror as happened during World War 2.”

It’s not the first time that Canadian actions in Ukraine have raised concerns.

In June 2018 the Canadian government and military officials in Ukraine met with members of the ultranationalist Azov Battalion, which earlier that year had been banned by the U.S. Congress from receiving American arms because of its links to Neo-Nazis

The Canadians were photographed with Azov battalion members, images which were shared on the battalion’s social media site.

In a statement to Postmedia the Canadian Forces noted the meeting was planned by Ukrainian authorities and Canadian representatives had no prior knowledge of those who would be invited. The Azov battalion has been connected to war crimes by the United Nations.

Various Jewish groups have warned about efforts to whitewash Nazi collaborators in eastern European countries, portraying them as heroes instead of those who aided in the Holocaust. Earlier this year, the Canadian government added its voice to those condemning an annual parade in Latvia’s capital honouring members of the Nazi SS, saying it opposes any such event glorifying Adolf Hitler’s regime.

Around 1,000 people marched in the parade in Riga on March 16 in honour of the Latvian SS divisions which fought for the Nazis in the Second World War. Some in the parade wore swastikas and other Nazi insignias.

Source: Canadian officials honour Nazi collaborators in Ukraine, angering Jewish groups

Poll finds deep divisions among Ukrainian Jews on threat of anti-Semitism

Of note:

In the largest poll of Ukrainian Jews conducted in 15 years, nearly one fifth of 900 respondents (17 percent) said that anti-Semitism has increased in the country, while another fifth (21 percent) said the opposite.

The data underline divisions among Ukrainian Jews over the effects of the 2014 revolution that toppled the previous regime and unleashed an explosion of nationalist sentiment.

In the poll, commissioned by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress this year, another 23 percent of respondents said it was too hard to say whether there has been an increase anti-Semitism. Thirty-six percent of respondents said the level of anti-Semitism has not changed.

Ariel University’s Prof. Ze’ev Khanin developed the methodology for the poll and presented it Monday at a Kyiv Jewish Forum event. The previous survey of Ukrainian Jews this size occurred in 2003-2004.

Michael Mirilashvili, president of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, said that whereas anti-Semitism “is certainly an important challenge,” the main one is helping Jews “hold onto a strong Jewish identity that can withstand the environment and not weaken as a result of social pressures.” EAJC, he added, is investing in projects focused on achieving this, including Limmud.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Seventy-two percent of Ukrainian Jews said they feel solidarity with Israel, compared with 3 percent who said they do not and 26 percent who could not say.

  • Forty-two percent said they find it important that their descendants feel Jewish, compared to 25 percent who said it was not.

  • Twenty-nine percent described themselves as “Ukrainian Jews;” 22 percent as “simply Jews”; 6 percent as “Russian Jews”; and 21 percent percent as “human beings,” regardless of their Jewish affiliation.

Source: Poll finds deep divisions among Ukrainian Jews on threat of anti-Semitism

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy offers Russians citizenship

Counter offer on citizenship to Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukrainians in separatist-held areas:

President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has offered Ukrainian citizenship to Russians, but combined the proposal with criticism of the Kremlin.

“We will provide Ukrainian citizenship to representatives of all peoples who suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes. In the first place — the Russians, who today suffer probably the most,” Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

Zelenskiy’s offer came in response to a Kremlin decree last week that would fast-track Russian passports for residents of eastern Ukraine, with Russian President Vladimir Putin even saying on Saturday he was considering giving all Ukrainians easier access to Russian citizenship if they wanted it.

Moscow’s move condemned

Zelenskiy said Putin should not expect many Ukrainians to take up the offer, saying they had “freedom of speech in our country, free media and internet,” in contrast with Russia.

Moscow’s move has angered many politicians in Kyiv, which has been at war with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine since 2014. The conflict, which began after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, has so far killed 13,000 people.

Ukraine: Displaced and disadvantaged

Outgoing President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday accused Moscow of crossing a “red line” with the passport offer, saying Moscow wanted to create a Russian enclave in Ukraine.

The European Union also condemned the move, with European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic describing it as “another attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia.”

‘New conditions’ for living together

Zelenskiy, who won the second round of presidential elections a week ago, on Sunday also expressed a willingness to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine with Moscow. But he warned the Kremlin not to use “the language of threats [and] military and economic pressure.”

“This is not the best path to ceasefire and unblocking the Minsk process,” he said, referring to a peace deal sealed in the Belarusian capital in 2015 that has so far failed to bring about an end to the conflict.

“We are prepared to discuss the new conditions for how Ukraine and Russia can live together,” he said, but stressed that normalizing ties depended on Russia ceasing its occupation of both Donbass and the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014.

Zelenskiy, who is likely to be inaugurated in early June, is a newcomer to politics, having previously only played a president in a comedy on television.

Source: Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy offers Russians citizenship

Ukraine’s Newly Elected President Is Jewish. So Is Its Prime Minister. Not All Jews There Are Pleased.

Interesting dynamics:

When Volodymyr Zelensky, the Jewish comedian recently elected the president of Ukraine, announced that he was running, the chief rabbi for the eastern Ukrainian region where Mr. Zelensky grew up was shocked by the hostile reaction.

But the opposition, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki said, did not come from the Orthodox Church, a bastion of anti-Semitism in the past, or from a Ukrainian nationalist movement that collaborated with the Nazis during Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. They could not seem to care less that Mr. Zelensky was a Jew, the rabbi recalled.

Instead, the hostility came from Mr. Zelensky’s fellow Jews, both secular and religious, for whom painful memories of czarist-era pogroms and the Holocaust are still very much alive.

“They said, ‘He should not run because we will have pogroms here again in two years if things go wrong,’” said Rabbi Kaminezki, the chief rabbi in Dnipro, the capital of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region.

Despite its scarred history, Ukraine today is no hotbed of anti-Semitism. It already has a Jewish prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, and if he stays on after Mr. Zelensky is sworn in, Ukraine will be the only country outside of Israel where the heads of state and government are Jewish.

Religion barely came up during the campaign.

The reason, said Igor Shchupak, a Holocaust historian in Dnipro, is that past persecution of Jews was carried out mostly when Ukraine’s territory was under the control of foreign states, principally Russia and Germany, that made anti-Semitism official policy.

“We have anti-Semites today, but we have no anti-Semitism as a state policy,” he said.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 5 percent of Ukrainians surveyed would not accept Jews as fellow citizens, compared with 18 percent of Poles, 22 percent of Romanians and 23 percent of Lithuanians. Ukraine now has the world’s third- or fourth-largest Jewish community, but estimates of its size vary wildly, ranging from 120,000 to 400,000 people, depending on who is counting.

“The times of pogroms are over,” Rabbi Kaminezki said. “This is not on anybody’s agenda here.”

The rabbi has known Mr. Zelensky for years and has joined him at birthday parties in Switzerland for a self-exiled Ukrainian billionaire, Ihor Kolomoisky, who is Jewish. He said he had been appalled that his own community, in its initial alarm over the Zelensky candidacy, was in effect siding with a small group of supporters of the incumbent president, Petro O. Poroshenko, and far-right nationalists who were trying in vain to make an issue of the comedian’s non-Christian roots.

Aside from a few posts on social media, which included a comment on Facebook by an adviser to Mr. Poroshenko that “the president of Ukraine must be Ukrainian and Christian,” Mr. Zelensky’s background played “zero role” in the election campaign, said Mr. Shchupak.