Nine Ukrainians injured by gunfire during fighting in Kiev were flown to Israel Friday afternoon to receive crucial medical treatment.
The wounded, who are said to be in serious condition, were taken to Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot and to Hadassah’s Ein Kerem Hospital.
The head of the World Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry, Alexander Levin, said that Kiev’s central synagogue functioned as an emergency triage center late into Thursday night, while efforts to transfer the wounded were being coordinated by Kiev’s Jewish community, according to Israel Radio.
Ukraine’s Jews have found themselves in a tense predicament since the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych late last month. But the community, which numbers over 100,000, has been largely supportive of Ukrainian nationalists against a subsequent military invasion of Crimea by Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to cast Ukrainian nationalists as anti-Semites and neo-Nazis, in what has been described by many Ukrainian Jews as a disinformation campaign meant to turn world opinion against the country’s fledgling government.
An attack on a synagogue last week in Crimea has been used by Russia to back up its assertions, but Jewish leaders in Ukraine maintain that anti-Semitism is not on the rise.
In a highly critical open letter to Putin published earlier this week, 21 community leaders excoriated Putin’s perceived hypocrisy and asserted their support of Ukrainian sovereignty “in the name of national minorities and Ukraine’s Jewish community.”
“Your certainty about the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, which you expressed at your press conference, also does not correspond to the actual facts,” wrote the group. “Perhaps you got Ukraine confused with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year.”
Calling for Putin to cease his intervention in Ukraine and his encouragement for pro-Russian separatism within the country, the group stated that it does not wish “to be ‘defended’ by sundering Ukraine and annexing its territory.”
Instead, the authors wrote, “we are quite capable of protecting our rights in a constructive dialogue and in cooperation with the government and civil society of a sovereign, democratic, and united Ukraine.”
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the injured flown to Israel were Jewish.)
JTA contributed to this report.