AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Ukrainian police arrested three teenagers suspected of desecrating a mass grave of Holocaust victims near Rivne.
A spokesperson for the Ukrainian police said the suspects, aged 17-19, are believed to have sprayed swastikas on the monument near the Rivne killing site in western Ukraine on June 6. They were arrested the next day.
Rabbi Shneor Schneersohn, chief rabbi of Rivne, told JTA, “The attack had clearly been anti-Semitic.” He said the perpetrators sprayed anti-Semitic profanities on the monument, smashed light fixtures and floor tiles.
A spokesperson for the Ukrainian interior ministry said the suspects would be prosecuted for hooliganism. If convicted, they could face a four-year prison term.
Schneersohn, a Chabad rabbi who has been living in Rivne for eight years, said the attack was the first in five years. In 2005 perpetrators dug up graves of murdered Jews, presumably hoping to find jewelry or gold teeth.
Ukrainian authorities are eager to prevent the recurrence of anti-Semitic incidents, Schneersohn said, citing the European soccer championship matches taking place this month in Ukraine. “Anti-Semitic incidents don’t look good — especially now,” he said.
At least 17,000 Jews are believed to be buried near the monument outside Rivne. German troops massacred them with machine guns in November 1941, in one of the largest mass executions of Jews that year in the German military-administered territories.