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Thursday, August 21, 2014

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Jewish groups urge peaceful solution to Ukraine protests

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About 25 people have been reported killed in Ukraine protest clashes Wednesday. [Wikimedia Commons]

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged a peaceful solution to the conflict resulting from protests in Ukraine. On Wednesday afternoon, CNN—citing a U.S. State Department official—reported that the Ukrainian government and opposition announced a truce to allow negotiations to start.

Earlier on Wednesday, about 25 people were reported to have been killed in clashes between protesters and government forces, and at least 241 were injured, the Associated Press reported.

The ADL told JNS.org in a statement, "We support the clear message that top U.S. and E.U. officials have been sending: the violence must stop and a negotiated political solution must be found. For the sake of all the people of Ukraine, we hope for a quick end to the violence and political turmoil."

"For those who cherish democratic values, including the right to peaceful assembly and protest, it is incumbent to be heard and to make clear that such behavior is totally unacceptable... These events pose a particular challenge for Europe and the United States, which need to underscore that, if Ukraine is to have a bright future in the international community, there must be an immediate end to the use of violence and an intensive discussion about a change of direction," AJC Executive Director David Harris said in a statement.

The protests began during the last weekend of November 2013, when Ukrainian police clashed with hundreds of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square, known as "Maidan." The crowd was protesting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to freeze plans to join a free trade agreement with the European Union just before the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit. Instead, Yanukovych indicated an intention to join the Eurasian Customs Union, an economic union dreamed up by Russian President Vladimir Putin that is viewed as a precursor to a wider Eurasian Union of Eastern European countries and the Caucausus.  

Until Monday, the opposition and the Ukrainian government appeared to be working toward an agreement. Then Russia announced that it plans to resume providing funding to help the Ukrainian government survive, reigniting the opposition's fear of a deal with Russia. On Tuesday, protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside the Ukrainian parliament.  

"The promise of a democratic and peaceful Ukraine hangs in the balance... The Ukrainian leadership, supported by Moscow, bears primary responsibility for the deepening crisis. They should heed the urgent calls of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Obama, and European leaders to rethink their approach and respond with understanding to the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people," Harris said.

Despite the violence, Chabad-Lubavitch of Kiev reports that its Or Avner Jewish Day School is remaining open.

"In Israel and the U.S., we are not needed, and in Ukraine, we can make a positive difference in people’s lives, so we are here," said Rabbi Shmuli Zejger, according to Chabad.org.
 

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