Ukraine’s Jewish community expressed indignation Wednesday after a court decision forced the foreign ministry to reinstate an ex-consul fired last year over anti-Semitic remarks made while serving in his post.
Israel expressed its consternation over the ruling, saying it was “confused.”
Vasyl Marushchynets, then the Ukrainian consul in Hamburg, Germany, was dismissed last year after his social media posts came to light. Writing on Facebook, he blamed Jews for World War II and called for “death to the anti-fascists.” He also posed for photographs with a cake baked in the shape of Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.”
Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and other senior Ukraine officials had condemned the comments.
However, the Kyiv court ruled Tuesday that the termination was illegal and ordered Maruschchynets’ reinstatement. Maruschynets also will receive thousands of dollars in missed wages.
Vasyl Marushchynets, a consul at the General Consulate of Ukraine in Hamburg, is celebrating his 60th birthday with a cake named after Hitler's book. I doubt that his colleagues didn't know about his nazi mindset, so the entire top staff of the Consulate should be fired. pic.twitter.com/HAISzRGM1j
— Anton Shekhovtsov (@A_SHEKH0VTS0V) May 13, 2018
The news of the reinstatement was slammed by Ukraine’s Jewish community.
“It is ultra-shameful, truly an assault on common sense, if such an obvious anti-Semite and even neo-Nazi is being reinstated in diplomatic service,” Iosif Zisels, a prominent Jewish activist in Ukraine, said.
“I don’t understand how it’s possible that there are no legitimate mechanisms to prevent his reinstatement in a structure such as the foreign ministry,” he said.
“A person who permits anti-Semitic and xenophobic attacks has no right to hold a diplomatic post,” said Inna Ioffe, director of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine.
Ukraine has a history of many Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitic attacks, and has a number of ultra-right political movements and paramilitary groups, one of which sports a Wolfsangel, a German symbol used by the Nazis, on its emblem.
But the country this year elected Jewish ex-comedian Volodymyr Zelensky as president. Former prime minister Volodymyr Groysman, in office until this year, is also Jewish.
A poll published last year by Pew Research Centre said five percent of Ukrainians don’t accept Jews as compatriots, a figure that is one of the lowest in eastern Europe.
Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, responded to the ruling in a letter posted Wednesday on Twitter.
“The State of Israel is confused by the decision of the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal to reinstate Antisemitic Ukrainian diplomat Vasyl Maruschynets in his functions,” Lion wrote.
He added that Israel was “encouraged” by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s decision to appeal the ruling.
The ministry decided not to restore Marushchynets to his previous position, but instead will assign him to the Department for Countering Threats from the Russian Federation, according to the local news outlet 112UA.
Lion also called on the Ukrainian government to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.