Researcher: No real increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine

(JTA) — Despite several violent attacks on Jews, there does not appear to be any real increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine over recent years, an international researcher said.

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the personal representative of the chairperson-in-office on combating anti-Semitism at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, made the statement Tuesday after visiting Ukraine this week.

“There have been several incidents in the last few months including violent attacks which are rare in Ukraine,” Baker told JTA in an email. “By all accounts, hate crime incidents in Ukraine are underreported. But apart from these recent events, which many believe were not ‘home grown,’ there does not appear to be any real increase over recent years.”

Amid a violent revolution in Ukraine that unseated President Viktor Yanukovych in February, Ukrainian Jewish groups and individuals have reported several attacks, including two stabbings, some street beatings and the attempted torching of two synagogues.

Russian President Vladimir Putin cited anti-Semitism to justify what international observers said was a Russian invasion into the Crimean Peninsula and its subsequent annexation to the Russian Federation. Ukrainian officials and nationalists, in turn, have accused pro-Russian separatists of staging anti-Semitic attacks to discredit the Ukrainian revolution and its supporters.

In its reporting on Baker’s visit, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote on its website, “According to Rabbi Andrew Baker there are no serious anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, some isolated cases are of а provocative nature and are used for propaganda purposes.”

Baker’s “unbiased and balanced findings will contribute to refuting of ill-based accusations by the Russian propaganda of so-called ‘anti-Semitic’ feelings in the Ukrainian society,” the ministry also wrote.

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