Latest Actions and Words in Ukraine
RUSSIA STRIKES BABYN YAR HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL SITE IN UKRAINE: Russian missiles and shells struck the site of Babyn Yar, where tens of thousands of Jews were massacred during the Holocaust, during Moscow’s assault on Kyiv on Tuesday, March 1.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy took to Twitter to condemn the attack. “To the world: what is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar?” Zelenskyy wrote. “At least 5 killed. History repeating…” Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, tweeted: “These villains are killing Holocaust victims for the second time.” Ukraine State Emergency Services released photos and video of the fire and a collapsed structure at the Babyn Yar memorial and the adjacent Jewish cemetery. Natan Sharansky, former head of the Jewish Agency and current chairman of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Advisory Board, slammed the attack and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Putin seeking to distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country is utterly abhorrent,” Sharansky stated. “It is symbolic that he starts attacking Kyiv by bombing the site of the Babyn Yar, the biggest of Nazi massacres.” Sharansky said that the memorial is meant “to preserve historical memory following decades of Soviet suppression of historical truth so that the evils of the past can never be repeated. We must not allow the truth to – once again – become the victim of war.” The memorial site’s leadership condemned Putin’s use of language related to the Holocaust to justify his invasion of Ukraine: “As experts who work with Holocaust research and commemoration, we are deeply outraged that the aggressor country has used genocidal rhetoric to justify its shameful actions,” they said. “Russia has vulgarly instrumentalized anti-Nazi rhetoric, and is trying to take on the role of a fighter against Nazism.” (JPost / VFI News)
UKRAINE’S LEADER SIGNS APPLICATION TO JOIN EU AS ROUND OF TALKS WITH RUSSIA ENDS: An embattled Ukraine moved to solidify its bond with the West on Monday, February 28, by signing an application to join the European Union, while the first round of Ukraine-Russia talks aimed at ending the fighting concluded with no immediate agreements.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted photos of himself signing the EU application, a largely symbolic move that could take years to become reality and is unlikely to sit well with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long accused the West of trying to pull Ukraine into its orbit. Russian and Ukrainian officials held their meeting on day five of the war under the shadow of Putin’s nuclear threats, and with Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine running into unexpectedly fierce resistance. Early Monday night, a top adviser to Ukraine’s president said that the first round of talks with Russia had ended and that both delegations had returned home for consultations in their capitals. Mykhailo Podolyak gave few details except to say that the talks, held near the Ukraine-Belarus border, were focused on a possible cease-fire and that a second round could take place “in the near future.” At this stage, Ukraine is many years away from reaching the standards for achieving EU membership, and the 27-nation bloc is expansion-weary and unlikely to take on new members any time soon. Also, any addition to the EU must be approved unanimously, and some member states have complicated approval procedures. Overall, the consensus has been that Ukraine’s deep-seated corruption could make it hard for the country to win EU acceptance. Still, in an interview with Euronews on Sunday, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said, “we want them in the European Union.” EU officials stressed that the adherence procedure takes years, dampening Ukraine’s hopes that suddenly becoming part of the European club could help it better weather the Russian onslaught and speed up military, financial and political support. (TOI / VFI News)
ROMAN ABRAMOVICH IN BELARUS ASSISTING TALKS AT KYIV’S REQUEST: Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, at the request of Ukraine, is in Belarus assisting in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine as part of an effort to end the ongoing war, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Abramovich was asked by the Ukrainians to help in enabling the talks and has traveled to Belarus to participate in the discussions.
Delegations from Russia and Ukraine arrived at the Belarusian border town of Gomel on Sunday, February 27, and began talks aimed at finding a way to end the fighting in Ukraine. Abramovich has close ties with the Jewish communities in Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Kornichuk would not comment specifically on Abramovich’s involvement in the talks, but said that “we appreciate anyone who can help if he has enough influence.” Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea Football Club, has come under fire in London over reports of his past relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Calls have mounted in parliament for him to be sanctioned. On Sunday, he decided to give the “stewardship” of Chelsea over to trustees of the club’s charitable foundation. A spokesperson for Abramovich would not comment on the reports that he was in Belarus but confirmed that he was approached by the Ukrainian officials. “I can confirm that Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution and that he has been trying to help ever since. Considering what is at stake, we would ask for understanding as to why we have not commented on neither the situation as such nor his involvement,” the spokesperson said. (JPost / VFI News)
RUSSIAN-JEWISH BILLIONAIRES VOW TO FIGHT EU SANCTIONS OVER UKRAINE INVASION: Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, whose LetterOne investment firm owns Spain’s Dia supermarket chain, said Tuesday, March 1, he would contest the “unfounded” EU sanctions targeting him over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a joint statement, Fridman and Russian banker Petr Aven, a LetterOne co-founder, insisted they had “no financial or political relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Kremlin. The two said they “will contest the spurious and unfounded basis for the imposition of these sanctions — vigorously and through all means available to them — to reverse unwarranted and unnecessary damage to the livelihoods and prosperity” of their employees and business partners. They did not say how they would go about contesting the EU sanctions. Fridman, one of Russia’s richest men, resigned from the board of directors of Amsterdam-listed mobile network operator Veon, the company said Tuesday, following his inclusion in the EU’s sanctions blacklist of Putin’s allies. Veon operates mobile networks in Ukraine and Russia, as well as Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Fridman holds a 47.9% stake in the company through LetterOne. In a statement late on Monday, Dia insisted it was not controlled by the Russian oligarch and would not be affected by his being blacklisted by the EU. Dia said although it was 78% owned by LetterOne Investment Holdings SA (LIHS), “no individual shareholder controls the LIHS,” not Fridman nor Aven. “Accordingly, the firm considers it is not affected in any way, either directly or indirectly (by the aforementioned individuals who do not control LIHS or, therefore, Dia), by the new package of sanctions.” In a letter to his LetterOne employees, Fridman told staff that “war can never be the answer” and called for the “bloodshed” to end, the company told AFP on Sunday. “This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been brothers for hundreds of years,” he wrote. (TOI / VFI News)
FRANCE’S MACRON COMES OUT AGAINST CLAIMS OF ISRAELI APARTHEID: French President Emmanuel Macron came out last week against the description of Israel as an apartheid state recently by human rights groups like Amnesty International.
Macron was supposed to deliver a speech at the annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) but had to cancel an important meeting. Instead, Prime Minister Jean Castex was asked to deliver his speech and he read the president’s speech. “Like you, I am concerned about the United Nations resolution on Jerusalem which continues to deliberately and against all evidence remove Jewish terminology from the Temple Mount. You know my attachment to Jerusalem, where I went several times as President or before becoming one. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, I have never stopped saying that. This in no way precludes recognizing and respecting the attachment of other religions to this city, and it is in this spirit that I myself walked through the Old City in 2020 and visited each of the Holy Places.” “Erasing Jerusalem’s Jewishness is unacceptable, just as it is unacceptable that in the name of a just fight for freedom, associations misuse historically shameful terms to describe the State of Israel,” Castex said in Macron’s name.He added that “where all citizens, whatever their religion, have understood that their only hope is peace together. It is not by affirming such untruths that associations that claim to pursue an objective of peace can claim to fulfill their vocation. How dare we talk about apartheid in a state where Arab citizens are represented in government, in parliament, in leadership positions and in positions of responsibility?” Castex added in the name of the president: “As I promised you, the definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has been adopted by the Republic.” (JPost / VFI News)
FOR MANY JEWS WATCHING UKRAINE’S WAR, VLODYMYR ZELENSKYY IS A ‘MODERN MACCABEE’: One week ago, Jews outside of Ukraine knew Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the world leader on the other end of the “perfect phone call” that resulted in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
But now, after days of watching Zelenskyy balance humor and gravitas while rallying his fellow Ukrainians to rebuff the Russian army invasion, they know him as a contemporary Jewish hero. “Zelenskyy gives modern Maccabee energy,” Peter Fox, a writer, wrote on Twitter. Fox was referring to the ancient Jews who, though outflanked in every way, fended off the efforts of foreign fighters, directed by a power-hungry ruler, to quash their independence and culture. That history can be seen as an apt comparison for what’s happening in Ukraine — and it’s one of several reasons that Zelenskyy’s leadership is resonating so much with Jews the world over. “As a Jew, it is impossible not to feel proud of the courage, dignity, and defiance shown by Zelenskyy at this moment,” Molly Crabapple, a prominent leftist writer and artist, said in a tweet late Friday night, shortly after Zelenskyy posted a video showing him in the center of Kyiv, defiant in the face of encroaching Russian forces. In Tel Aviv, people rallying for Ukraine chanted Zelenskyy’s name. A tweet by a former Israeli speechwriter encouraging people to pray for him by his Hebrew name was shared tens of thousands of times over the weekend. And multiple memes ricocheted around the internet highlighting Zelenskyy as a powerful embodiment of Jewish pride. “This is Volodymyr Zelenskyy. President of Ukraine. He is Jewish. His grandfather fought Nazis in WWII. Many of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust,” said one of them, shared by Good, a media company. “He is standing up to a dictator. Because he is brave. Because he knows what happens if you don’t.” (INN / VFI News)
ISRAELI-MADE WEAPONS ARE HEADING TO UKRAINE: As NATO member states announce that they are shipping modern weapons to Ukraine, Israeli-made weapons are also on their way, even as Jerusalem walks a diplomatic tightrope following Russia’s invasion of the European nation.
On Sunday evening, February 27, the Netherlands announced that it would send 50 Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank weapon systems with 400 rockets and 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Amsterdam will also supply 100 sniper rifles and 3,000 additional munitions. While Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel’s Defense Ministry had no comment, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Saturday that he had authorized the Netherlands to send Ukraine the military equipment. Germany did not need to ask for Israel’s approval to transfer the weapons because the plant in Burbach was only acquired by Rafael in 2004, and Berlin had been financing the development of the weapon since it was first introduced in 1973. The Army Recognition website said that all the military equipment and weapons will be transported to an Eastern European country by American C-17 transport aircraft, which departed from Eindhoven airbase and once on the ground, will be transported by road to Ukraine. Israel has sold billions of dollars worth of weapons systems to Eastern European countries fearing Russian aggression since it annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. In 2021, Israel’s defense exports reached $8.3 billion, with 30%t going to Europe. The sales included missiles, rockets, air defense systems, communications, drones, intelligence systems, radar and early warning systems, ammunition and armament, manned aircraft, avionics, observation and electro-optics. Rafael has also sold the SPIKE 5th generation, precise electro-optical missile to 18 European Union and NATO members, who can transfer the weapon to Ukraine if given the green light from Jerusalem. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAEL SEIZES CRYPTOCURRENCY DESTINED FOR HAMAS TERRORISM FUNDING: A seizure order for Hamas-destined cryptocurrency worth tens of thousands of shekels was signed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday morning, February 28. This marks the third time within a year that Israel has seized cryptocurrency accounts funding terrorism.
The 12 digital accounts and 30 digital wallets belonged to businesses associated with the Al’matchadun currency exchange company, the Defense Ministry said. The company, owned by the Shamlach family, is alleged to be affiliated with terrorism networks. The Shamlach family has been accused by the Defense Ministry of assisting Hamas with the transfer of tens of millions of dollars per year. “We are taking all the possible measures to cut off the economic ‘oxygen supply’ to terror organizations,” said Gantz. “We continue to expand the tools to cope with terror and the companies that support it. I commend the organizations involved for their intelligence, operational, and legal cooperation. We will continue to take all the measures necessary to fight terror.” The operation was jointly conducted by the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing in Israel (NBCTF), the national cyber unit of Lahav 433, and the IDF’s Intelligence Division. (JPost / VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff