KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — A Ukrainian Jewish group wants the government to investigate an explosive device placed inside a synagogue as a terrorist act.
In a statement Wednesday, the Ukrainian Jewish Committee said it considered the incident at the Lutzk Progressive Jewish Congregation “nothing else but a terrorist act directed against all citizens of Ukraine.” The statement "expresses deep anxiety and concern regarding an attempt to blow up the Lutzk synagogue.”
A bottle of white powder hooked up to a timing device was discovered Monday in the ventilation system in the synagogue basement.
According to law enforcement agencies, the explosive device was real, though tests are being done to determine if the explosive could have detonated. There have been no arrests in the case.
“We consider that international terrorism has declared a war against Ukraine," the statement said. "And the recent case is a logical result of inactivity of the Ukrainian state in a struggle against anti-Semitism — which is on the rise — and a fuzzy anti-terrorist position on the international scene. If Ukraine continues to remain aloof, then next time could be tragic.”
The committee called on Ukraine’s president and prime minister to take control of the probe, and leaders of law enforcement agencies to make every effort to determine guilt in the attempted attack.
Gen. Viktor Shvydkoi, chief of police of the Volyn region, told JTA that law enforcement agencies have not yet opened a criminal case and that the case materials were transferred by the police to the Ukrainian Secret Service department, or SBU.
According to a preliminary investigation and the findings of a commission of experts, Shvydkoi said, "the explosive did not explode due to a technical reason.”
The bomb "was probably a specific threat against the Jewish community, but we have no rise of anti-Semitism or xenophobia in the region and the situation is quiet,” he said. “Police will continue to investigate the case properly to find the guilty party.”
The SBU in Kiev told JTA that it had no information on the case, while a Lutzk SBU official told JTA that a special committee of inquiry has been established and experts are examining the contents of the bottle. The official told JTA that the bottle placed in the synagogue contained an explosive mixture of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum.
Some other Jewish leaders are more cautious and are waiting for the final results of the investigation.
Josef Zissels, the longtime leader of the Va’ad in Ukraine, and Arkady Monastyrsky, the leader of the Jewish Forum of Ukraine, said there have been no systemic anti-Semitic manifestations in the region and the incident was likely provoked by political forces or individuals.
About 300 Jews are affiliated with the Reform synagogue in Lutzk in a city of about 205,000 in northwest Ukraine.