A far-right politician belonging to the anti-Semitic Svoboda party was severely beaten in Ukraine last Thursday in an attack his supporters are blaming on political rivals seeking an advantage ahead of the post-Soviet republic’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
According to The Kyiv Post, former Konotop mayor Artem Semenikhin was jumped by several unidentified assailants at 1 a.m. on Thursday and is currently under police guard and in critical condition.
In a post on Facebook, Svoboda party head Oleh Tyahnybok — an outspoken anti-Semite who has previous claimed that a “Russian-Jewish mafia” had taken over Ukraine — called the attack a “political assault” and demanded that “law enforcement agencies carry out an objective and prompt investigation of this crime and punish the perpetrators.”
Semenikhin’s 2015 election as mayor of Konotop, a small Ukrainian city with less than 90,000 residents, came as a shock to the local Jewish community. At the time, The Jerusalem Post reported that he was well-known locally for driving around in a car with the Neo-Nazi slogan 14/88, a numerological reference to the phrases “we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and “Heil Hitler.” His victory came as Svoboda’s political fortunes were in decline, with its parliamentary representation falling to almost nothing in the wake of the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution. He was later forced to resign by the Konotop City Council.
Ilya Aizenshtat, a Ukrainian Jewish communal activist originally from Konotop, told The Times of Israel that he believes the far-right politician, who is doing badly in the polls, was likely exaggerating the extent of his injuries for political gain and that his opponent, who is leading by a wide margin, had little reason to engage in violence.