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Ukrainian Jews slam Putin in full-page ad in New York Times

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NEW YORK (JTA) — Leading Ukrainian Jews took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times slamming Russian President Vladimir Putin for maligning the treatment of Jews in Ukraine.

The ad, which also appeared in Canada’s National Post, Israel’s daily Haaretz and the International New York Times, is addressed to Putin and accuses him of spreading lies about how minorities, including Jews, are treated in Ukraine.

“The Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are not being humiliated or discriminated against, their civil rights have not been limited,” the letter says. “Your certainty of the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine also does not correspond to the actual facts. It seems you have confused Ukraine with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year.”

The letter was signed by a host of businessmen, public figures, scholars and artists. The lead signatory is Josef Zissels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine, known as the Vaad.

“Yes, we are well aware that the political opposition and the forces of social protests who have secured changes for the better are made up of different groups. They include nationalistic groups, but even the most marginal do not dare show anti-Semitism or other xenophobic behavior,” the letter says. “And we certainly know that our very few nationalists are well-controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government — which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services.”

The ad comes on the heels of a March 5 letter sent by the Vaad making similar accusations after Russian troops entered Crimea.

On Monday, Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia, criticized Ukrainian Jewish leaders for condemning Moscow’s actions.

“The Jewish community should not be the one sending messages to President Barack Obama about his policy or to President Putin or to any other leader,” Lazar told JTA in an interview. “I think it’s the wrong attitude.”

[RELATED: Chief Russian rabbi slams Ukrainian Jews for criticizing Putin]

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