Anti-Semitic slogans were painted on walls in downtown Odessa in the early hours of July 23. Police opened a criminal case on charges of violating the equality of people based on their racial, ethnic and religious origins (Article 161 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code).
Leading research fellow at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies Oleg Nemensky told InfoRos that "anti-Semitism in Ukraine is deeply rooted in the nationalistic tradition. Even people of the Jewish descent are affected by anti-Semitism, which is nonsense per se. But this is an integral part of the ideology."
Tense atmosphere of hatred in Ukrainian society encourages the spread of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, he said. People feel that things are going the wrong way, which naturally entails the search for culprits, inciting hatred in society.
"On the other hand, one should be aware that the main symbolic enemies for modern Ukrainians are 'Moskals' rather than Jews. Hatred is directed mostly against Russians and those who are called 'Vatniks,' - who tend to have good feeling towards Russia. And nationalists are ready to unite in particular with traditionally hated Jews against the pro-Russian ‘vatniks’. In general, this explains why there is much less anti-Semitism in Ukraine compared to what might have been," Nemensky said.
Many Jews fled from Ukraine shortly after the Maidan events in 2014 fearing neo-Nazi reprisals. The number of people resettling to Israel grew 50% in the first year after the Maidan events alone. Many of those who have stayed in Ukraine fear for themselves and their families.
And the fears are justified. Anti-Semitic actions that started more than three years ago have still persisted. For example, a Hassidic camp was rioted three years ago in Uman, the Cherkassy region. The riot took place ahead of the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Nachman of Breslov and the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Thirty unidentified assailants armed with carpenter tools broke into the camp. The assailants threatened to kill and vowed to return after all Jewish pilgrims gather in the camp.
In late 2017, vandals desecrated the building of a former synagogue in Odessa, where a regional archive is now stored. The building is expected to be transferred to the Jewish community, Chabad Shomrei Shabbos. The wrongdoers left a sign on a wall "Jews out! Ukraine for Ukrainians!" They also wrote at the entrance to the Holocaust Museum "First toast for the Holocaust!" The signs also had the wolf-hook symbol used by the Azov unit of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry and the National Corps party.
Holocaust mass burial sites, monuments, and Jewish cemeteries often come under vandal attacks all over Ukraine. Authorities are not interested in investigating these crimes, which is the reason why the attackers have never been punished.
These crimes are committed mainly by members of neo-Nazi organizations whose number has reached several dozen over the past four years. Authorities in Kyiv are loyal to them, and it is well-known that impunity breeds crime.
The more the state connives with nationalists and neo-Nazis, the larger their ranks become. In fact, having nothing to be proud of, but be a part of 'the titular ethnic group' they assert themselves through violence, robberies and vandalism.
The connivance of Kyiv authorities and the European Union jeopardizes health and life of dozens of thousands of Jews in Ukraine. And this threat is becoming absolutely real. The surge in anti-Semitism many Jews fear to go to synagogue, as they clearly understand that there is one step to make from graffiti on walls and torch marches to pogroms.