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Ukraine conference aims to fight intolerance

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — An international conference on the fight against racism and intolerance was held in Kiev.

Participants in the May 7 conference, which was organized by the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, encouraged the adoption of a comprehensive body of civil and administrative anti-discrimination laws to combat anti-Semitism and racism. They agreed that it was important to closely monitor the situation and that training was needed in the struggle.

Members of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Ukrainian government officials and representatives of judicial institutions, researchers, academics and representatives of nongovernmental organizations attended the conference.

Ukraine is strengthening its efforts in the fight against racism and intolerance, participants said, including the ratification by Ukraine of Protocol No. 12, which enacted a general prohibition against discrimination.

“The situation concerning Jews improved a little bit in Ukraine in comparison with previous years and is more or less normal,” Vyacheslav Likhachyov, monitor and member of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities in Ukraine, told the roundtable.

Some Jewish activists and observers,  however, said the reports could be politically motivated and questioned the accuracy of statistics, as Ukraine lacks proper monitoring of anti-Semitism.

According to groups monitoring anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, attacks and propaganda dropped in 2008 and the beginning of 2009, while the number of racist attacks and reports of neo-Nazi activity was on rise in the country of 46 million, which includes approximately 250,000 Jews.

“The situation with anti-Semitism is vibrant in Ukraine and in general stable but at the same time alarming,” Mikhail Frenkel, leader of the Association of the Jewish mass media in Ukraine, told JTA, referring to the glorification of some controversial World War II commanders in Ukraine and advertising by SS-affiliated groups in western Ukraine during the current financial crisis that could lead to an increase of violence against Jews.

Jewish Ukrainian lawmaker Aleksandr Feldman, leader of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, in April urged in an open letter President Victor Yuschenko to pay attention to the rapid growth of fascism in Ukraine.

Nina Karpachova, Ukraine’s parliamentary commissioner for human rights, said she was concerned by the sounding of “neo-Nazi slogans in Ukraine again.”

 

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