Weekly News Update 
 
 
 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. July 22, 2016
 

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
 
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
 
Dear Friend,
 

This week, prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet, an independent media reporter covering the former Soviet region, was killed in a car bombing in Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko said that Sheremet’s murder was intended to “destabilize” the country, and asked the United States and the EU to assist with the investigation.
 
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint report this week detailing torture, unlawful detention, and human rights abuses by both pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian authorities.  The Ukrainian government has vowed to investigate allegations of human rights violations by Ukraine’s security services.
 
Demonstrators and police clashed violently in Yerevan, Armenia yesterday, injuring dozens. The clashes ensued after hundreds of protesters took to the streets to support the armed opposition group ‘Founding Parliament’, which stormed a Yerevan police station on July 17, taking hostages. Founding Parliament is critical of the Armenian government and has called on President Serzh Sargsyan to resign. The hostage crisis has not been resolved, and more protesters have been reported taking to the streets in Yerevan.
 
The update includes several stories about NATO members’ growing concerns over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times regarding the U.S. commitment to defend NATO allies. His questioning of the U.S. commitment has alarmed several NATO partners concerned about Russia’s policies in the region.

 
Sincerely,
 
 
Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NCSEJ WEEKLY NEWS BRIEF
Washington, D.C. July 22, 2016

Seven Ukrainian soldiers killed in eastern regions amid surge in violence
Reuters, July 19, 2016


Seven Ukrainian troops were killed in the past 24 hours during fighting with pro-Russian separatists, making July the deadliest month for the Ukrainian military in nearly a year after a sharp increase in violence.
 
Another 14 were wounded, a military spokesman said. Clashes in Ukraine's eastern regions have surged in spite of an 18-month-old 'Minsk' ceasefire deal. International monitors have expressed unease at recent escalation.
 
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said separatists had been firing high-caliber mortars at government positions, naming the rebel-controlled town of Horlivka and the outskirts of rebel-held Luhansk as particular hotspots.
 
"On average every attack lasts for at least thirty minutes and can last for up to two hours. That's how it was yesterday," Lysenko said, without giving details on how the soldiers were killed.
 

Read the full article here.

Jedwabne mayor calls for exhumation of Jewish mass grave
JTA, July 19, 2016    
 

The mayor of a Polish town where locals killed and buried hundreds of Jews added his voice to a growing chorus of officials seeking to exhume the bodies from a mass grave to see if German soldiers were the killers.
 
Michael Chajewski, the mayor of the town in northeastern Poland, told Gazeta Wyborcza late last week that he supports exhumation. His backing of exhumation comes amid an uproar over a noncommittal statement by Poland’s education minister on television saying that even though state historians and leaders have blamed locals for the pogrom on July 10, 1941, she did not know who killed the Jews of Jedwabne 75 years ago.
 
“Yes. I’m going to do it,” Chajewski is quoted as telling the paper when asked if he would sign a petition calling for the exhumation. “You need to determine how many people were killed and by whom to finally dispel doubt.”



Russia To Deploy Advanced Antimissile System In Crimea
RFE/RL, July 15, 2016

 
Russia plans to deploy the advanced S-400 missile-defense system in the occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea.
 
The deputy commander of the Russian Army's 18th Air Defense Regiment, based in Feodosia, told Russian media on July 15 that the state-of-the-art system should be deployed by August.
 
It is unclear whether they will replace or augment the S-300 systems currently deployed there. The S-400 is capable of tracking some 300 targets and engaging three dozen simultaneously.
 
It has a range of several hundred kilometers.
 
Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula in March 2014, a move widely rejected by the international community.
 
The Crimean port of Sevastopol is the home base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
 

'Islamist' Gunman Caught After Deadly Shootings in Kazakhstan — Officials
Moscow Times, July 19, 2016
 

The lone gunman who killed five in an attack in Kazakh city of Almaty has been captured by police, officials announced Tuesday.
 
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev called the attacks on Monday morning a “terrorist act” that targeted the country's police force. Three officers and two civilians were killed in the shootout, while at least eight others were wounded.
 
The head of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee, Vladimir Zhumakanov, said that the alleged attacker, 26, had previously been incarcerated on charges of robbery and possession of weapons. The suspect, named by Zhumakanov as Ruslan Kulikbaev, adopted “radical Islam” during this time, Radio Free Europe reported.
 

Read the full article here.

Russian, Iranian, Azerbaijani Presidents To Meet In Baku
RFE/RL, July 13, 2016
 

The presidents of Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan are expected to hold talks in Baku early next month.
 
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour said on July 13 that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rohani will meet with Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in the Azerbaijani capital on August 8.
 
The statement comes one day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the three leaders would soon meet in what he called "a new format of regional cooperation."
 
The agenda is expected to include economic cooperation, bilateral relations, and discussion on the Convention on the Caspian Sea document, which would define ownership of the Caspian among its littoral states.


 Read the full article here.

Hungarian Yeshiva Desecrated by Nazis Restored to Jewish Community
By Rena Udkoff
Chabad, July 20, 2016


Hungarian-born Jewish children may not appreciate the rich background to their summer camp experience. An old synagogue in Mád that has stood empty and dilapidated for over seven decades will, come next week, serve as their camp base. Mád is a picturesque town 130 miles east of Budapest.
 
In 1944, hundreds of local Jews were locked up in that synagogue without bread or water for three days by German soldiers and local militiamen. The town’s community of 800 Jews, constituting nearly 30% of its total population, was wiped out. Its men, women and children were deported to Auschwitz.
 
Built in the 1770s, the Baroque style synagogue is one of the oldest surviving synagogues in the country, and one of the finest surviving examples of the unique Hungarian synagogue architecture. Attached to the synagogue is a three-story complex that once housed the rabbi’s home and yeshiva in Mád, where for over 150 years, hundreds of prominent Torah scholars pursued their studies in peace.The Nazi Holocaust eliminated two-thirds of the nearly 1 million Jews who lived in Hungary on the eve of World War II. Today, there are fewer than 100,000 Jews among Hungary's 10 million people. With 90% of the Jewish residents of Mád having perished in the war, the synagogue, the rabbi’s house and the land were appropriated by the state in 1952. While the synagogue building was left to deteriorate, the rabbi’s house was converted into apartments, which housed residents until the early 1990s.
 

Read the full article here.

Armenian police clash with demonstrators as hostage stand-off continues
Guardian, July 21, 2016
 

Clashes between anti-government demonstrators and police are intensifying in the Armenian captial, where armed men have been holding hostages for four days and protesters erected barricades on a nearby avenue.
 
More than 50 people were injured in the clashes near a police station in Yerevan after police moved in late on Wednesday night to clear out the protest camp. Authorities said 51 people have been hospitalised, 28 of them police officers, and about 30 protesters have been detained.
 
The police station was seized on Sunday by a group of gunmen seeking the release of an opposition figure who was arrested in June for illegal weapons possession.
 
Roughly a dozen men, many veterans of Armenia’s 1988-1994 war with Azerbaijan, broke into the Erebuni district’s police station with a truck, taking several policemen hostage. One policeman, Colonel Artur Vanoian, was killed in the attack and two other people were wounded.
 
 
Read the full article here.

Fear Of 'Dark Times' After Journalist's Killing
By Christopher Miller
RFE/RL, July 21, 2016
 

The death of a passionate investigative reporter in a car bombing in the Ukrainian capital has sent shock waves through Kyiv and its journalist community.
 
Pavel Sheremet had won prestigious international awards for exposing political abuses in his native Belarus, quit Russian TV over "Kremlin propaganda" at the height of Russian patriotic fervor as Moscow was carving Crimea from the rest of Ukraine, and ultimately warned loudly of a creeping nationalist threat to authorities in his adopted home, Kyiv.
 
So when a "remote-controlled or delayed-action" bomb blew up the car Sheremet was driving to work for his regular morning show, the blast dashed more than the life of the 44-year-old crusader for rights and democracy.
 
"The dark times are back in Ukraine," was how Ukrainian journalist Katya Gorchinskaya summed up what many were feeling after the July 20 assassination.


Read the full article here.

Civilians Subjected To Unlawful Detentions, Disappearances, Torture In Eastern Ukraine, Watchdogs Say
By Eugen Tomiuc
RFE/RL, July 21, 2016
 

Civilians have been subjected to extended arbitrary detention, disappearances, and even torture by both sides in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, two leading rights watchdogs warn in a joint report.
 
The July 21 findings by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuse Ukrainian authorities and pro-Kyiv paramilitary groups of holding civilians suspected of supporting or having connections with Russia-backed separatists. It says separatists incarcerated civilians suspected of backing or spying for the Ukrainian government.
 
In some cases, detainees were used as a negotiation chip for prisoner exchanges, the groups say in the report, titled You Don’t Exist: Arbitrary Detentions, Enforced Disappearances, And Torture In Eastern Ukraine.
 
Authorities in Kyiv reacted to the report by promising to investigate, while a representative for separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk called the findings "absurd."


Read the full article here.

Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack
By David Sanger and Maggie Haberman
New York Times, July 20, 2016


Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.
 
Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
 
“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”
 
Mr. Trump’s statement appeared to be the first time that a major candidate for president had suggested conditioning the United States’ defense of its major allies. It was consistent, however, with his previous threat to withdraw American forces from Europe and Asia if those allies fail to pay more for American protection.
 

Why Russia Is Rejoicing Over Trump
By Anna Nemtsova
July 20, 2016
 

Excited by Donald Trump’s pledge to promote “easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia,” the Kremlin establishment earlier this month invited Trump adviser Carter Page to speak before graduating students of the New Economic School. Page did not disappoint. In his remarks, Page condemned current American policy for its “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.” When a Russian student asked Page whether he really believed that American society was liberal and democratic, Trump’s advisr grinned and delivered a line that might have come from Vladimir Putin himself. “I surround the word ‘liberal’ with quotes,” he said. ”I tend to agree with you that it’s not always as liberal as it may seem,” he said. “I’m with you.”
 
It was thus perfectly in keeping with Trump campaign’s entente with the Kremlin that last week Trump aides reportedly watered down the new Republican platform on Russia, removing language that called for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces. Page, an energy expert, has close ties to Russian business and relationships with executives at Gazprom, the giant state-run gas company. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has worked as a lobbyist for former Ukraine’s former Russia-aligned president, Viktor Yanukovych.



How the GOP Abandons Ukraine
By Jeffrey Gedmin
Atlantic Council, July 20, 2016
 

When asked recently why he turned up in Moscow last December to help celebrate the tenth anniversary of RT, Michael Flynn rambled about wanting to deliver stern lectures to the Russians. The retired US Lt. Gen.—who now serves as foreign policy adviser to Republican nominee Donald J. Trump—was seated at a gala dinner next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an interview with the Kremlin's propaganda arm, Flynn was anything but downbeat about bilateral ties: "interests...are converging," he assured RT journalist Sophie Shevardnadze; it's time "to move forward" together.
 
One of those convergent interests between team Trump and Putin may be Ukraine. As Josh Rogin reported in the Washington Post earlier this week, Trump staffers in Cleveland succeeded in browbeating delegates to water down GOP platform language, replacing a pledge to provide "lethal defensive weapons" to the Ukrainian military for the country's self-defense with the gentler, more ambiguous suggestion of "appropriate assistance."
 
Ukrainians have mounting questions and concerns.
 
“We can only hope that this [language] could include defensive lethal weapons. The Ukrainian-American community is rightfully concerned about Donald Trump's relationship with President Putin,” said Michael Sawkiw, director of the Ukrainian National Information Service, in a July 19 interview.



Russia’s Major Parties Haven’t Kept Their Promises to Avoid Nationality Issues
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, July 19, 2016
 

Earlier this year, Russia’s major parties pledged not to exploit ethnic issues in their election campaigns, but a survey by Natalya Totskoynova and Ivan Kovalyov shows that they have not avoided them and may do so even more frequently as the campaign heats up.
 
The two Nazaccent portal journalists cite what they say are statements by the parties and their leaders that indicate how these parties are positioning themselves at present (nazaccent.ru/content/21346-proverka-vyborami.html).
 
Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has violated its pledge most openly. It has listed among its official campaign slogans two which show where it is headed: “Stop denigrating ethnic Russians” and “For the Russian People,” although party leaders routinely insist that the LDPR “isn’t against anyone” and “doesn’t promote radical views.”
 
This is nothing new for Zhirinovsky’s party. His candidates ran for the sixth Duma under the slogan “LDPR is for the Ethnic Russians” and for the fourth Duma with the slogans “Russians are Tired of Waiting” and “Remember Ethnic Russians and be concerned about the poor.”


Read the full article here.

Former Anticorruption Official Calls For International Probe Into Fraud That Left Moldova Reeling
By Mike Eckel
RFE/RL, July 20, 2016

 
A former top Moldovan anticorruption official has alleged that the massive banking crisis roiling that tiny former Soviet republic was the result of "economic sabotage" committed by those seeking to destabilize the country and keep it from moving closer to Europe.
 
In an interview with RFE/RL, Mihail Gofman also suggested that a billionaire former legislator who sought to become prime minister was the main beneficiary of the $1 billion theft from Moldovan banks, a stunning amount totaling nearly one-eighth of the country's GDP.
 
The comments by Gofman, who was the deputy chief within the Office of Prevention and Control of Money Laundering until he was pushed out in 2014, are the latest twist in the murky saga that has prompted a political crisis pushing Europe's poorest country closer to collapse.



Russia and Turkey's Rapprochement
By Jeffrey Mankoff
Foreign Affairs, July 20, 2016

 
Turkey's normalization of ties with Russia in late June was a rare bit of good news for the country. Under the pressure of a wave of terrorist attacks by Kurdish guerrillas and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS; a massive influx of Syrian refugees; mounting economic problems compounded by Russian sanctions; and growing friction with the European Union and the United States, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have decided that his country could no longer afford a cold war with Moscow.
 
By apologizing for Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane in November 2015, Erdogan paved the way for the resumption of economic ties and increased security cooperation between the two countries. The apology, however, will not diminish Russia's growing influence in Turkey's backyard. More than the shootdown, that broader geopolitical shift—which has seen Russia grow more powerful in the Black Sea region, the Caucasus, and the wider Middle East, often at Ankara’s expense—put an end to the short-lived Russian-Turkish strategic partnership that emerged in the first decade of this century.


Read the full article here.

Ukrainian Holocaust Perpetrators Are Being Honored in Place of Their Victims
By Jared McBride
Tablet magazine, July 20, 2016
 

Olevsk, a sleepy if ancient town deep in the backwoods of Ukraine, became part of my life in 2003 when I came across a dozen testimonies about vicious pogroms there at the beginning of the German-Soviet war of 1941 to 1945. In the testimonies, survivors and witnesses describe how Jews were beaten, humiliated, and mutilated in the center of town in the summer of 1941. Many of their tormentors and killers were members of the Poliska Sich, a guerrilla force led by one of the most famous Ukrainian nationalist leaders during the war, Taras “Bulba”-Borovets. Taking his nom de guerre from a mythical Cossack leader, Bulba-Borovets ruled Olevsk and its environs during the early months of the German-Soviet war, while Germans were thin on the ground in this remote location. It was only after the pogrom violence and further abuse of Jews at the hands of the Sich that the Germans took over Olevsk in September 1941 and established a ghetto. The Sich then patrolled the ghetto and later provided the Germans with manpower to liquidate the Jewish population.
 
Discovering these documents, I felt certain that such brutal pogroms must have been included in the literature on anti-Jewish violence in western Ukraine and eastern Poland in the summer of 1941. Following Jan Gross’s powerful 2000 book, Neighbors, other historians tackled the difficult questions surrounding local participation in the Holocaust, and in particular pogroms in that fateful summer. Yet I soon realized that there was no mention of the pogroms in the scholarly literature; Bulba-Borovets, unsurprisingly, failed to mention them in his memoirs.


Read the full article here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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About NCSEJ
Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.
 
 
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