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Hasidic pilgrims leave trash, resentment on Ukraine border as standoff wanes

Ukrainian deputy interior minister says Belarus was warned the pilgrims would not be allowed to reach Uman, and now the mess needs to be cleared up

Trash left on the Belarus-Ukraine border after a standoff over the entry of Jewish pilgrims, September 18, 2020 (Screen grab)
Trash left on the Belarus-Ukraine border after a standoff over the entry of Jewish pilgrims, September 18, 2020 (Screen grab)

Jewish pilgrims left piles of trash on the Ukrainian border with Belarus on Friday after they abandoned the site having camped out for several days following Kiev’s refusal to allow them entry in line with coronavirus rules.

The Ukrainian deputy interior minister Anton Gerashchenko posted photos of the garbage on Facebook, the Ynet news site reported, saying the mess would need to be cleared up after Belarus allowed the pilgrims to reach the border with Ukraine.

“Thank you to the border guards for your work on the border. Despite significant psychological pressure, you did your duty. We warned Belarus that the pilgrims could not reach Ukraine. We asked the Belarussians not to let the pilgrims enter their territory. They did not listen to us and now we will have to clean up,” he wrote.

At least 1,000 Orthodox-Jewish believers were camped out this week in no-man’s land between Ukrainian and Belarusian border crossings ahead of Jewish New Year celebrations which began Friday evening and last until Sunday.

Паломники-хасиды полностью освободили территорию пограничного пункта «Яриловичи» и направились отмечать Новый Год в…

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Антон Геращенко‎‏ ב- יום שישי, 18 בספטמבר 2020

Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel to the central Ukrainian city of Uman every Jewish New Year to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Bratslav Hasidic movement, but were told not to this year amid the pandemic.

The standoff between the pilgrims and armed Ukrainian security services sparked tensions at the Novi Yarylovychi border crossing and inflamed a diplomatic row between Minsk and Kyiv, which have traded barbs over disputed presidential elections in Belarus last month.

Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko earlier told his officials to negotiate a travel corridor with Ukraine and offered to provide buses to transport religious believers to holy sites in Ukraine.

Kyiv in turn accused Belarusian authorities of giving false hope to the Hasidic pilgrims that they would eventually be allowed to travel to Uman.

Ukrainian border guards block the road on the Belarus-Ukraine border, in Belarus, September 15, 2020. (TUT.by via AP)

Both Ukraine and Israel are keen to avoid a spike in coronavirus infections. Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown on Friday to tackle one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates.

Meanwhile police said up to 3,000 Hasidic Jews arrived in Uman for the celebrations, entering Ukraine before the ban.

Law enforcement has tightened security near Rabbi Nachman’s tomb where pilgrims have congregated.

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