Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. July 14, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Dear Friend,

In this week's update, we have included two pieces analyzing President Trump's extended meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany last Friday. President Putin also met with President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the G20 Summit to discuss implementation of the Minsk agreements to end fighting in Eastern Ukraine. 

On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv where he reaffirmed U.S. support for sanctions against Russia remaining in place until the borders of Ukraine are fully restored.

In Lviv, Ukraine, a local citizen stopped and called the police on three vandals after they spray-painted a swastika on the Space for Synagogues memorial. It is the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents in Lviv that NCSEJ continues to monitor.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced this week that it reached an agreement with the German government to provide compensation to survivors of a 1940 pogrom in Iasi, Romania. We share an article with you about this that includes a video interview with George Herscu, a survivor of the pogrom who now lives in New Jersey.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. July 14, 2017

This is How the G-20 Summit Helped Trump and Putin Claim Victories

By Matthew Rojansky

The National Interest, July 7, 2017

The much anticipated first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has taken place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The two presidents met for over two hours, with only translators and their respective chief diplomats—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov—joining them. Despite its length, the meeting’s narrow agenda, which Tillerson himself called transactional, also underscores the continuing dysfunction in U.S.-Russia relations.

Both the State Department and the Kremlin confirmed that the two presidents discussed cyber security, Ukraine and Syria. Specific deliverables were limited, and focused primarily on improving the conditions for continuing dialogue, especially around the shared priority of counterterrorism. This should at least reassure Trump’s critics that no “grand bargain” has been offered or agreed linking Syria, Ukraine, or any other issue.

Read the full article here.

Making the Best of a No-Win Encounter: Putin and Trump Meet

By Alexander Baunov

Carnegie Moscow Center, July 13, 2017

The first Putin-Trump meeting has been much anticipated and much delayed. Early this year, there was talk of it being Donald Trump’s first international meeting, with some even mentioning Reykjavik as a possible venue, echoing the famous meeting of 1986. Then there was a chance the two leaders might meet in May after the NATO summit, just as then president George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin once met in Slovenia. In the end, a multilateral format gave both sides an ironclad alibi—this was not a special personal encounter, just a meeting at the G20 summit at Hamburg.

As far as the Russian side was concerned, Putin wanted a meeting that wouldn’t be announced too far in advance, but would last as long as possible. A spontaneous, almost impromptu meeting that went over schedule could be hailed as a diplomatic success for Russia.

Putin’s wishes more or less came true—that when the presidents finally met last Friday they found so many mutually important topics that they didn’t want to stop, and that Putin confirmed his ability to win over even the most cautious interlocutor just by looking him in the eye.

For Trump, the meeting was a bigger challenge. Every extra fifteen minutes behind closed doors in Putin’s company adds credibility to accusations of collusion, treason, or at best inability to confront the enemy.

Read the full article here.

Merkel, Macron, Putin Agree on 'Comprehensive' Implementation of Ukraine Peace Deal

By Rikard Jozwiak

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 8, 2017

HAMBURG, Germany -- The leaders of Germany, France, and Russia have agreed that the Minsk agreements on ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine "should be comprehensively implemented," a German official tells RFE/RL.

The characterization of the meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, suggested no significant progress on efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.

Moscow's role in fighting that began in April 2014 between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists prompted Western sanctions against Russia.

A 2015 cease-fire deal under the Minsk agreements was brokered by Germany and France -- together with Russia and Ukraine -- in a bid to end the fighting.

Read the full article here.

Tillerson Says Russia Must Restore Ukraine Territory, or Sanctions Stay

By David Sanger

New York Times, July 9, 2017

KIEV, Ukraine — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assured Ukraine’s leader on Sunday that the United States would not lift economic sanctions against Russia until it “reverses the actions” that prompted them and restores the country’s “territorial integrity,” appearing to set the same high bar for sanctions relief that the Obama administration did.

Mr. Tillerson’s strongly worded statement, issued at a news conference in Kiev alongside President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine, seemed to insist that Moscow withdraw Russian troops and heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine and return Crimea, the Black Sea territory that Russia annexed in 2014 — though Mr. Tillerson never specifically mentioned that disputed peninsula by name.

Read the full article here.

Lviv Resident Detains Three Young Men Who Painted Swastika on Space of Synagogues

Religious Information Service of Ukraine, July 13, 2017

An active man did not allow hooligans to spoil the memorial on Staroevreyska street in the center of Lviv. At about 1 o'clock in the morning, he stopped three people who had fouled a memorial building in the "Space of Synagogue" with paint and called the police. This was reported by "Zaxid.net".

“The man told me that he was walking along the street and saw how the three young men began to paint one of the plates with paint. He stopped them, took a paint and warned that they would not have escaped anywhere, because the police are already going,” told the press service of the police patrol police in Lviv.

Read the full article here.

Germany Agrees to Pensions for Iasi, Romania Holocaust Survivors

By Tracy Connor, Hannah Rappleye, and Matt Riley

NBCNews, July 12, 2017

George Herscu's eyes filled with tears when he got the news: More than 75 years after he survived a Holocaust massacre, the German government had finally agreed to recognize his suffering.

"After so many years, justice is done," the 90-year-old said, crying in his Springfield, New Jersey, home.

"My mother, my father..." he said, his voice trailing off as he remembered his murdered family. "For me it's a little bit too late, you know. But it's just the fact that they recognized the barbaric way they killed my father."

Herscu is one of 1,000 survivors of what's known as the Iasi Pogrom, a 1940 roundup of Romanian Jews planned by Romanian and German officials.

Read the full article and watch the interview here.

With no Jews left to protest, Christian crosses grace Holocaust memorials in Belarus

By Julie Masis

The Times of Israel, July 9, 2017

PETRIKOV, Belarus — A few years ago, a monument to the local residents who perished during the Nazi occupation was built in the central park of the small town of Petrikov, next to the big Soviet statue dedicated to fallen Red Army soldiers.

Inscribed in white letters on granite, the monument informs passersby that more than a thousand civilians were murdered in the town between 1941 and 1944. Above this message is a Christian Orthodox cross typical of Russian cemeteries and church steeples.

“The man who built the monument thought that we should remember not only the soldiers who liberated our city, but also the civilians — so people know that civilians were killed here,” explains Galina Truhanovich, director of Petrikov’s sole museum — a small building dedicated to local history. “He was a religious Christian, so he put a cross on it.”

Nothing on this monument informs anyone that overwhelming majority of those murdered civilians were Jews.

Read the full article here.

Hungarian PM vows to protect Jewish rituals ahead of opening of kosher slaughterhouse

JTA, July 14, 2017

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban vowed to protect religious freedoms in his country during a talk with foreign rabbis visiting for the opening of a large kosher slaughterhouse for geese.

Orban, whose right-wing government is currently under heavy criticism by the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities for its campaign against the left-leaning Jewish billionaire George Soros, received the rabbis last week in the Hungarian capital, his office’s website said.

The visitors, including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the European Jewish Association and Rabbi Slomo Koves of Hungary’s Chabad-affiliated EMIH community, heard from Orban that “Hungary’s Jewish community is under the unconditional protection of the Government” and that, “As with the other historic churches, Jewish congregations in Hungary also receive the full amount of available funding,” the website said.

Read the full article here.

Polish former priest indicted for inciting hatred against Jews

JTA, July 9, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — The prosecutor’s office in the western Poland city of Wroclaw issued an indictment against former priest Jacek Międlar for “public incitement to hatred based on religious and national differences.”

He could face up to 2 years in prison.

On Nov. 11, 2016, during the Polish Independence Day, Wroclaw hosted the “March of Patriots.” According to the prosecutor’s office, Międlar in his speech to the march, “under the guise of promoting patriotic attitudes,” publicly called for hatred against Jews and Ukrainians

Read the full article here.

Ukraine to tighten border rules for Russian, boost spending for cyber security and defense

By Will Ponomarenko

Kyiv Post, July 11, 2017

Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said on July 10 that it would introduce new, stricter rules for Russian citizens crossing the national border and living in the country, and also allocate more funds to enhance cyber security and defense in 2017.

Starting from Jan. 1, all foreign citizens crossing Ukrainian border will have to undergo biometric checks, unless they are from countries that have agreements with Ukraine that such checks are not required, the council’s chairman, Oleksandr Turchynov, said at a briefing on the evening of July 10.

In particular, the biometric checks will include mandatory fingerprinting, he added.

According to Turchynov, the stricter rules will primarily affect Russian citizens.

Read the full article here.

The window for reform is closing in Ukraine

By Melinda Haring

The Washington Post, July 11, 2017

Walking around Kiev on a sunny Saturday, a visitor could be forgiven for thinking all is well. Billboards advertise a website for registration of new businesses, a process that takes less than an hour. A craft brewery promises home delivery, and markets offer everything from pesto cheese to organic granola. A three-story department store that sells 150 Ukrainian brands embodies a lively fashion scene repeatedly profiled by Vogue. In short, signs of positive change abound, while the war in the east, which has taken more than 10,000 lives, is far away and practically invisible. And yet that may be precisely the problem.

Ukraine has some genuine achievements to which it can point. Some important reforms have taken place. Macroeconomic fundamentals are good; the value of the currency has stabilized. And Ukraine hasn’t lost the war despite the direct involvement of Russia, whose forces are far more powerful.

And yet an air of blithe self-delusion prevails among Ukraine’s business elites, diplomats, politicians and even some activists. The optimists prefer to avoid addressing the country’s most intractable problems, from the war and the failed cease-fire agreement to the fact that there has been virtually no real foreign direct investment since 2014. Moreover, the next round of reform is likely to be especially tough, requiring a sense of compromise and political maturity that is currently absent. It’s easier to keep repeating the government’s clever line that the country has accomplished more in the past three years than it did in its first 23 years of independence.

Read the full article here.

The Baltics Try to Wall Out Russian Agents, But Moscow's Message Still Comes Through

By Anna Nemtsova

The Daily Best, July 11, 2017


RIGA, Latvia—In the Baltics, pro-Moscow organizers and media of any kind, even the innocent, are under constant suspicion. But that doesn’t prevent many from operating in plain sight, eager to deliver their pro-Kremlin message to whoever listens.

For more than 50 years the three Baltic republics—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—were unwilling adjuncts of the Soviet Union, ruled by Moscow until 1991, when the USSR collapsed. Now they are members of NATO and the European Union, and most of the people here have no desire to be part of the new empire that Russian President Vladimir Putin appears committed to cobbling together.

Even before 2014, when Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and backed a war of secession in that country’s industrial heartland, the Baltics were worried about Russian subversion, or worse—since then, they’ve been obsessed.

Read the full article here.

The Boundaries of Friendship: Russia's Border Dispute with Belarus

By Artyom Shraibman

Carnegie Moscow Center, July 12, 2017

In early January, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed into law a long-awaited decree: Belarus would introduce visa-free travel for citizens of 80 countries, including the United States and EU states, for up to five days. Compared to the visa regimes of other post-Soviet states, this was an overdue and modest liberalization. Ukraine and Georgia, for example, liberalized their visa regimes for Westerners ten years ago, and Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan have likewise softened travel restrictions in recent years.

But unlike Belarus, none of these countries has an open border with Russia, meaning their visa liberalizations posed no direct threat to Russian security.

Unsurprisingly, Russia responded quickly to Belarus’s new policy: on February 1, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) published Director Alexander Bortnikov’s order to establish a security zone with border controls along the Russia-Belarus border, and in May, Russia moved flights to Belarus from domestic to international terminals.

Read the full article here.

Polish government moves to take control of top court

By Michal Broniatowski

Politico Europe, July 13, 2017

WARSAW — Poland’s parliament, under the leadership of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, passed a law dissolving an independent body responsible for the nomination of judges. At the same time, PiS submitted a draft law that would force the entire Supreme Court into retirement and give the country’s justice minister the ability to decide which judges can stay in their current roles.

Critics worry these dual moves pave the way for Poland’s executive branch to take full control of the judiciary. The parliament’s latest decision, in their view, is in line with earlier efforts by PiS, which came to power in 2015, to undermine checks and balances.

“Courts in our opinion are the stronghold of post-communists in Poland,” Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of PiS and Poland’s de facto leader, said in a recent interview with Polish online news portal Onet.

“The Supreme Court is … protecting people who had served the old regime,” he said, adding that the judicial system is “controlled by lefties and … subordinated to foreign forces.”

Read the full article here.

Poland to Buy Israeli-Made Patriot Missiles
By Anna Ahronheim
Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2017

Poland has signed a memorandum of intent with the United States to buy the Patriot missile system along with interceptor missiles from Israel’s David Sling missile defense system in a deal worth close to $8 billion.

“A memorandum was signed tonight that the US government has agreed to sell Poland Patriot missiles in the most modern configuration,” Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said on Thursday.

In light of ongoing tensions in Eastern Europe following Russia’s occupation of Crimea, and ongoing fighting in the Ukraine, Poland has been modernizing its military, spending over $14.5b. on acquiring new weapons and military equipment, including new aerial defense systems.

The deal with US defense contractor Raytheon, which would see Poland buy eight Patriot missile defense systems, is expected to be finalized in November of this year.

Read the full article here.

[Link to pdf of full articles]
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Founded in 1971, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry 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.