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Nationalist marchers in Kyiv say Ukraine is under ‘occupation’ by ‘Jewish clan’

Banner targeting country’s Jewish president, Vlodymyr Zelensky, displayed at march honoring World War II Nazi collaborators

People carry flags of right-wing party Svoboda and a banner reading "Fight to collaborators!" during a rally marking Defender of Ukraine Day in centre Kyiv, Ukraine, October 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
People carry flags of right-wing party Svoboda and a banner reading "Fight to collaborators!" during a rally marking Defender of Ukraine Day in centre Kyiv, Ukraine, October 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

JTA — Participants in a nationalist march in Ukraine raised an anti-Semitic banner on Wednesday decrying the country’s “occupation and robbery” by a “Jewish clan.”

The banner, aimed at Ukraine’s Jewish president, Vlodymyr Zelensky, appeared at the annual OUN-UPA March, which is named for Ukrainian nationalist movements that for a time sided with Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union.

“Celebrating the anniversary of the occupation and robbery of Ukraine by the Dnipro Jewish clan of Vova Zelensky,” read the billboard-sized banner that was displayed in front of Zelensky’s office.

Zelensky, who was elected last year, has implicitly criticized the glorification of wartime collaborators, telling the Times of Israel earlier this year that it would be better to name monuments and streets in the country after people “whose names do not provoke conflict.” Dnipro is a city in eastern Ukraine with a large Jewish community.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks with journalists in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 10, 2019. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

Mikhail Tkach, executive director of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, said the banner was an act of incitement and called on authorities to punish those responsible for it.

Other symbols on display at the march included the logo of the ultranationalist Azov Battalion and a banner that read “White Lives Matter.”

Separately, Kyiv’s department of culture sent a letter to a prominent rabbi in Kyiv asking him to hold prayers for “defenders of Ukraine of all generations” on Oct. 14. That date is a national holiday known as both Defender of Ukraine Day and the Day of the Cossacks, a Slavic group that perpetrated pogroms against Jews in the early 20th century. Many Ukrainian Jews objected to the establishment of Oct. 14 as a national holiday in 2015.

Ukrainians take part in a march to the 78th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in central Kyiv, Ukraine on October 14, 2020 (STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images via JTA)

Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, criticized the letter, which was apparently sent to multiple clergymen, calling in “bizarre.”

Dolinsky said the reference to “all generations” meant the city was asking Jews to pray for Bogdan Khmelnitsky, the 17th-century Cossak leader whose army killed countless Jews, as well as 20th century Nazi collaborators.

It is reminiscent “of Soviet times when the party bureaucrats instructed working collectives how to celebrate the Bolshevik revolution,” Dolinsky told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Ukrainian army veterans attend a rally marking Defender of Ukraine Day in centre Kyiv, Ukraine, October 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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