The White House on Thursday strongly denounced reports of pro-Russian forces handing out fliers aimed at rounding up Jews in eastern Ukraine, with a top adviser to President Barack Obama calling them “chilling.”
The fliers reportedly being handed out order Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk to register themselves and pay a tax or face deportation. According to The Daily Beast, the grand rabbi of Detski confirmed the flyers have been distributed in the area. The leader of Donetsk, whose signature allegedly appeared on the document, has publicly disavowed the flier.
It isn’t clear yet which individuals or groups have a role in handing out the fliers and how much of a threat they pose.
“Reports of Jews being forced to register by pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine are chilling, outrageous and must be universally condemned,” Ben Rhodes, the White House’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, wrote in a tweet.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also addressed reports of the flyers during a press conference in Geneva on Thursday.
“Just in the last couple of days, notices were sent to Jews in one city indicating that they had to identify themselves as Jews … or suffer the consequences,” Kerry told reporters. “This is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque.”
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement condemning the fliers, but also cautioned they may be a hoax.
“We are sceptical about the flier’s authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL’s national director.
Here’s an informal translation of the flier, from Paul Goble of The Interpreter:
Respected citizens of Jewish nationality! Given that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine support the Banderite junta in Kiev and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the Main Staff of the Donetsk Republic orders the following:
All citizens of Jewish nationality over the age of 16 who live on the territory of the sovereign Donetsk Republic must before May 3, 2014, appear before the Donetsk Republic commissar for nationality affairs in Room 514 of the government’s offices. The cost of registration is 50 US dollars.
In addition to the sum of 50 US dollars, those registering must bring their passports so that their religious affiliation can be entered, documents about the members of their families, and also notarized documents about all the real estate and means of transportation you own.
Those who refuse to register will be deprived of citizenship and forcibly expelled from the republic and their property will be confiscated.
This post was updated at 2:55 p.m. ET.
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