Pro-Russian radicals target Roma for assault in eastern Ukraine
News server Novosti Donbasu reports that pro-Russian radicals in eastern Ukraine have assaulted several Romani families in Slavyansk, allegedly for racial reasons. Armed pro-Russian separatists broke into their apartments, where they attacked and robbed them.
The news server reports that the radicals took no account of the age or sex of their victims. Children and women were reportedly among those beaten.
Eyewitnesses said the armed men took the stolen property away in vans. "The armed men attacked seven Romani-occupied homes in Slavyansk," said Romani activist Nataliya Varakutova.
The news server reports that the perpetrators claimed to have been acting at the orders of Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the leader of the pro-Russian insurgents who is calling himself the "people's mayor" of Slavyansk. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has also responded to the events in Slavyansk.
"We will not permit the propagation of the Black Hundreds' organization [Editors' Note: Chernaya sotnya, an aggressive, anti-Semitic Russian organization] in Ukraine. We will also not permit the dissemination of disrespect for other religions or those of another skin color. The ideology and practice of the pogroms being imported from one of our neighbors have no place in Ukraine," the PM said in a statement.
Yatsenuk believes it is necessary to apprehend the assailants and bring them to trial. The International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) has issued a statement calling on the Ukrainian authorities to verify the information about these anti-Romani attacks and to investigate them.
"The IRF refers to Ombudsman of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministries of Culture and Social Policy to verify the information on Roma pogroms in Slovyansk and take all the necessary steps to stop violence against Roma, as well any kind of human rights abuse based on ethnic grounds," the declaration reads. The assaults on the Roma occurred just one day after it was announced that anti-Semitic leaflets had been distributed in Donyetsk in an effort to terrorize members of the local Jewish community.
Unidentified persons wearing masks and carrying Russian flags were said to have distributed the leaflets in the last few days. The authorities in Donyetsk, now governed by the separatists, say the pamphlets are fakes.
The British newspaper The Guardian has also reported online that the anti-Semitic fliers are a hoax. The leaflets state that all persons of Jewish nationality older than 16 are to be subjected to registration.
According to the leaflets, Jewish people in Donyetsk "support the Banderite junta in Kiev" and are demonstrating hostility toward "the Orthodox Republic of Donyetsk and its citizens." The text says Jews must provide information about their families and their property during the registration.
Those who do not register by 3 May will be deported and their property will be confiscated, according to the leaflet. Representatives of the Jewish community in Donyetsk say extremists want to use the leaflets to provoke conflict and then charge Jewish organizations with committing violence.
The leaflet, which was posted near the synagogue in Donyetsk, bears the symbol of the "People's Republic of Donyetsk", which has been declared by the separatists, as well as the signature of the "People's Governor", Denis Pushilin. In an interview with Ukrainian journalists, he called the leaflet a fake and provocation and said whoever authored it were "idiots".
Pushilin claimed to not know who is responsible for the distribution of the leaflets. The Jewish community in Ukraine says it supports the new leadership in Kiev and has denied several Russian media reports that Ukraine is now under the influence of ultra-right radicals.
A recent mission by foreign observers found not evidence of attacks against Jewish people or against any other ethnic or religious communities underway in Ukraine. A recent UN report said Jewish people in Ukraine do not feel threatened and are not being subjected to any assaults.
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