Ukraine crisis: US condemns anti-semitic leaflets during Geneva talks despite questions over authenticity

Leaflets threatened Jewish residents in Donetsk to supply a 'detailed list of all the property they own' or have their citizenship revoked

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The Independent Online

The US has vowed to investigate anti-semitic leaflets which ordered Jews to register with pro-Russian authorities in eastern Ukraine, even after it emerged that Jewish residents were not being forced to do so and the alleged authors denied any association with them.

The leaflets were reportedly distributed by masked men outside a synagogue in Donetsk.

But even though the purported authors of the flier described it as a crude attempt to discredit them, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, condemned them during a crisis meeting in Geneva attended by Russian, Ukrainian and EU counterparts.

"Notices were sent to Jews in one city indicating that they had to identify themselves as Jews ... or suffer the consequences," he said during the meeting.

"In the year 2014, after all of the miles travelled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable; it's grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable," he said as members met to draw up a four-way agreement to work to defuse the crisis in eastern Ukraine.  

Mr Kerry said Russian Orthodox Church members in Ukraine had also received threats "that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was somehow going to attack them in the course of the next days."

"That kind of behaviour, that kind of threat, has no place," he said.

The leaflets have been dismissed as a "provocation" by the Jewish community, who issued a statement stressing the relationship between the Jews of Donetsk and their neighbours is amicable.

"It's important for everyone to know it's not true," chief rabbi, Shmuel Kaminezki said. "The Jews of Donetsk will not do what the letter says."

The Israeli news site YNetNews first published an article claiming the leaflets called for all Jewish residents aged 16 and older should supply a "detailed list of all the property they own, or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated".

It is not yet clear exactly who is behind the leaflets, which are written in Russian and bear Russia’s national symbol alongside the symbol of the Donetsk People's Republic.

The proclaimed head of the "People's Republic," Denis Pushilin, denied his group had any connection to the fliers.

Kirill Rudenko, a spokesman for the People's Republic of Donbass, also said they have no affiliation with the leaflets.

"We made no such demands on Jews," he said. "We have nothing against Jews.

"This is just another attempt to tarnish our image ... It is a crude forgery."

The US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington that the United States was still trying to determine who was behind the leaflets and added: "We take any anti-Semitism very seriously."

Additional reporting by agencies