Ultranationalist political party makes gains in Ukrainian elections


(JTA) — The ultranationalist Svoboda Party, making unprecedented gains in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, can control a parliament faction for the first time.

Svoboda, or the Freedom Party, garnered 12 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to exit polls, after winning less than 1 percent in the last election, in 2007.

Party leader Oleg Tyagnibok has called in the past for purges of the approximately 70,000 Jews living in Ukraine, as well as other minorities. The party has held several protest rallies against the presence of Jews in Uman, in the center of the country. 

Exit polls showed the governing Party of Regions of President Viktor Yanukovich in the lead with 27.6 percent to 32 percent, followed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party with 24 percent. Svoboda appeared to be fourth after a party led by former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko.

Earlier this month, Svoboda signed a cooperation agreement with the Fatherland party. Over the weekend, the agreement drew a critical statement from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

“Anti-Semitic insults by Svoboda have caused outrage on a number of occasions both in Ukraine and in Israel,” Liberman said. “The expression of such views reminds of the darkest pages in the history of the last century that has led humanity to the tragedy of the World War II.”

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