(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry denounced flyers distributed by three armed men outside a synagogue in the Ukrainian province of Donetsk earlier this week telling Jews celebrating Passover they had to “register” with the government by May 3 or face deportation and seizure of their property.
“Just in the last couple of days, notices were sent to Jews in one city indicating that they have to identify themselves as Jews. In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable – it’s grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable,” Kerry said during a press conference in Geneva on Thursday.
The flyers included the insignia of the pro-Kremlin “Donetsk People’s Republic” - which took over several government buildings earlier this month and has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to bring in a peacekeeping force.
They were supposedly signed by Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist movement. But Pushilin denied having any involvement, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The National Conference Supporting Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia (NCSJ) told CNSNews.com that the flyers were a provocation.
“NCSJ has contacted the Donetsk Jewish community leaders, who called the flyers a provocation. They said that all authorities have denied any connection to the flyers, and that Pushilin has denied authorship,” the group said in an April 17th alert to its members.
“We were very careful to say that Pushilin denied authorship, but he didn’t condemn it,” NCSJ executive director Mark Levin told CNSNews.com. “It might have come from them and it might not have. We just don’t know."
“No one has stepped forward [to claim responsibility]. There are only denials. But if it was intended to embarrass the current government, it has had just the opposite effect,” Levin said, adding that local government officials have repudiated the flyer.
“We’re gratified that the U.S. ambassador in Kiev has condemned what happened, calling it ‘chilling'," he added.
In a March 25 oped, Levin denounced “attempts to use the Ukrainian Jewish community as a pawn in the bigger political game.”
“We’re taking this very seriously, because we don’t want Jews to become scapegoats in a larger fight,” he told CNSNews.com.
In addition to registering with the government, the “official-looking document” said that any Jews over the age of 16 were also required to pay a $50 registration fee and report any automobiles and real estate they owned.
Addressed to “Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” the flyers stated that "ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles,” YNet reported. Those who did not register would be “forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.”
However, YNet noted that “the Jews in Donetsk are uncertain of anything; it is unclear who is responsible for the leaflet and who controls the city at the moment.”