The head of the self-titled Donetsk People’s Republic, the pro-Russian rebel group in eastern Ukraine, called current Ukrainian leaders “miserable” Jews.
Alexander Zakharchenko said that pro-Western leaders of the country are “miserable representatives of the great Jewish people.” The country’s historical nationalists “would turn in their graves if they could see who is running Ukraine,” he told a press conference in the eastern rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
Fighting has continued between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels in the region since April 2014, with more than 5,000 people being killed in the conflict, AFP reported.
“It is clear that the Zaharchenko statement was offensive, and it also reflects old prejudices that most post-soviets carry,” said Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, according to the Jerusalem Post. Meanwhile, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, Efraim Zuroff, said that Zakharchenko was trying to “sow internal ethnic discord in Ukraine and weaken the regime that the Russian insurgents are fighting.”
“That appears to be the motivation, which is based on the Russians’ assumption that anti-Semitism continues to be deeply entrenched in Ukrainian society,” Zuroff said.