Members of the Jewish community in the pro-Russian protest hub of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine say they have been left shaken by the distribution of tracts demanding the registration of Jews.
Concerns were evident, despite scepticism from Jewish leaders in the region and a US group fighting anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League, that the pamphlets handed out in front of the synagogue on Tuesday were anything more than calculated “provocation” by unknown parties.
“One of the men insisted that we read some pamphlets that they had in their hands. We refused because he wouldn’t remove his hood so they glued the fliers to the synagogue and left,” said Leonid Krasnopoloski, 43.
Bearing the stamp of the pro-Russian insurgency and signature of one its leaders, they contained a demand for every Jew to gather at the seized local administration building on May 3 to pay a fee of $US50 ($A54) to register or face the threat of being expelled from the region.
The incident happened as about 20 Jews were leaving the synagogue after marking the second day of the Jewish Passover festival.
The three hooded men handing out the pamphlets were carrying a Russian flag and the symbol of the separatist Republic of Donetsk.
“I have lived here for 40 years without any problem and now there is this phenomenon of the ‘Russian spring’ and immediately problems are surfacing,” he said.
Denis Pushilin, the pro-Russian protest leader whose signature was on the documents, strenuously denied that he had anything to do with the demands.
“The documents were handed out in our name but this was a provocation. My signature was forged,” Pushilin said at a press conference on Friday.