DNEPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (JTA) — The Jewish governor of a major Ukrainian city promised to return a former mosque to the Muslim community.
Igor Kolomoisky, who was appointed governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region in March, made the promise last week during a visit to the city’s Olympic Reserve Sports School, which operates from a building that was built in 1926 to serve as a mosque but which the Soviet government later confiscated, the news site evreiskiy.kiev.ua reported.
Representatives of the region’s Muslim community of 80,000 have been lobbying for restitution of the building since 2000, the news site rus.newsru.ua reported.
“Igor Kolomoisky, governor of the region, is going as soon as possible to return the mosque to the Muslim community,” Deputy Governor Boris Filatov was quoted as saying last week.
According to Newsru.ua, the region’s Muslim community is mostly made up of Tatars, whose main place of worship is a private residence in the city’s outskirts with a capacity of 250 people.
Throughout the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith communities have received hundreds of real-estate properties that had been confiscated during the Soviet era from local and state governments.
Recently, Russia has come under international criticism, including by the Council of Europe, for its treatment of Muslim Tatars in the Crimean Peninsula, an area it annexed from Ukraine in March despite an international outcry.
Kolomoisky, a billionaire banker, is known for his criticism of Russia’s actions on Ukraine and is believed to have poured millions of dollars of his private wealth into arming Ukraine’s underfunded army to deal with threats from Russia.