Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 2, 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’s update includes a number of stories related to challenges to U.S.-Russia relations and how U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin might handle them. The update also includes a number of stories on how European countries are preparing for a Trump presidency and what they hope to achieve with the new President-elect.

In Russia, ice dancer Tatiana Navka, the wife of Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, performed on Russian television dressed in a ragged concentration camp uniform with a yellow star. The performance was done to the theme of Oscar-winning film “Life is Beautiful.” Many have come out criticizing the performance while others have voiced their support including its Jewish choreographer.

Russia also marked "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people." Putin reaffirmed Russia’s position on a two-state solution using 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State. 

In Ukraine, “Death to Jews” was spray-painted on a synagogue in Chernivtsi, southwest of Kyiv. The synagogue, built in the 19th century, was recently rededicated.

The pro-European candidate In Moldova is preparing to challenge the results of the recent Presidential election. Maia Sandu, who lost to Igor Dodon last month, claims the Central Election Commission and the Foreign Ministry violated the voting rights of Moldovans living outside the country.

Earlier this week, the U.S House of Representatives passed a 93-page intelligence policy bill calling for a high-level panel to counter Russia’s political interference around the globe. The bipartisan bill, overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 390 to 30, addresses national security threats, activities of the U.S. intelligence community and congressional oversite issues. 

Finally, I want to remind everyone about our Board of Governors meeting on December 6th, 2016 at the Carnegie Endowment from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. If interested, please contact ncsejinfo@ncsej.org or click here for more information.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. December 2, 2016

Holocaust on Ice: Putin Aide's Wife Sparks Controversy After Skating in Concentration Camp Garb
By Allison Sommer
Haaretz, November 27, 2016

The world of figure skating and ice dancing is known for overly-dramatic and over-the-top themes meant to add drama.

But eyebrows were raised Saturday night when Olympic champion ice dancer Tatiana Navka, the wife of Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, performed on Russian television dressed in a ragged concentration camp uniform with a yellow star.

Human bones found during Warsaw-Metro excavations
Radio Poland, December 2, 2016

Human bones believed to belong to victims of a notorious WWII German Nazi massacre have been discovered during excavations for a new underground train station in the Wola suburb in Warsaw.

The bones are believed to be from a bloody Nazi operation in 1944 during the first days of the Warsaw Uprising against the Polish capital's German occupiers.

Russia marks 'International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people'
Jerusalem Post, November 29, 2016

Russia marked, on Tuesday, what it described as "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people," with a statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The message, to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, spoke of Russia's link of "traditional relations of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation."

Germany's highest court rejects appeal by 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz'
Reuters, November 28, 2016

Germany's highest court has rejected an appeal filed by a man known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz", who was sentenced last year to four years in prison for his role in the murder of 300,000 people at the Nazi death camp.

It said it rejected the appeal of Oskar Groening, 95, who was convicted in July 2015 of aiding and abetting the murders, as well as appeals filed by several other people who argued that Groening should have been convicted of the more serious charge of being an "accomplice" to murders.

‘Death to Jews’ sprayed on Ukrainian synagogue
JTA, November 28, 2016

Unidentified individuals wrote “death to the Jews” on the main synagogue of a city in Ukraine that earlier this month saw the rededication of another Jewish house of worship.

The hateful graffiti was discovered last week on the façade of the Central Synagogue in Chernivtsi, a city located 255 miles southwest of Kiev, a leader of the local Jewish community said.

Read the full article here.

As Republic of Moldova drafts its first Holocaust Action Plan, OSCE Mission supports Moldovan delegation at IHRA plenary
OSCE, November 28, 2016

From 6 to 10 November, the OSCE Mission to Moldova accompanied and supported a Moldovan delegation to the plenary meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in Iasi, Romania. A priority for the delegation was to receive input for the first ever Moldovan Holocaust Action Plan, by drawing on best practices from other countries’ experiences. Romania in particular provided helpful insights to the Moldovan delegation, including by hosting a visit to the Iasi Jewish cemetery and to a former Holocaust killing site, which now serves as a museum.
Read the full article here.

Ukraine Calls For Holodomor Famine To Be Recognized As 'Genocide'
RFE/RL, November 26, 2016

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called for the Holodomor, the Ukraine famine of the 1930s, to be recognized as "genocide."

Poroshenko spoke at a ceremony in Kyiv on November 26 marking the official Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holodomor, which commemorates the millions who died of famine under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine tests missiles near Crimea despite Russian ire
BBC News, December 1, 2016

Ukraine says it has successfully completed the first of two days of missile tests over the Black Sea, west of the Crimea peninsula.

Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014, had called the tests a provocation and threatened to shoot the missiles down.

Read the full article here.

Pro-European Candidate To Challenge Moldova's Presidential Election Results
RFE/RL, November 28, 2016

The pro-European integration candidate who lost Moldova’s November 13 presidential election intends to appeal the ballot results to the country’s Supreme Court.

A lawyer for former Education Minister Maia Sandu, of the Party for Action and Solidarity, told RFE/RL on November 28 that his client will take her appeal to the highest court after the Court of Appeals declined to hear it.

Russian Poll Shows Growing Support For Improved Relations With West
RFE/RL, November 29, 2016

A new poll shows the number of Russians supporting better ties with the West has significantly increased since the middle of 2015.

The survey released on November 29 and conducted by the independent Levada Center found 71 percent of Russians saying they want broader and closer economic, political, and cultural ties with the West, up from 50 percent in July 2015.

Kyiv Says Russia Has At Least 5,000 Troops In Eastern Ukraine
RFE/RL, November 29, 2016

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has said Russia has between 5,000 and 7,500 regular military troops inside Ukrainian territory, not counting the annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Deputy Defense Minister Ihor Dolhov told journalists in Kyiv on November 29 that Russia has 23,000 troops in Crimea, including about 9,000 along the administrative line between Crimea and mainland Ukraine.

Jews and Non-Jews During the Holocaust in the USSR: The Perspective of Interethnic Relations”
JewishPress, November 29, 2016

On Monday, the Moshe Mirilashvili Center for Research on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union began hosting a two-day international workshop at Yad Vashem, during which leading researchers and experts from the United States, Canada, Israel, Holland, Russia and Moldova will discuss topics relating to the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. Included in the discussion will be the question as to what extent the war and wartime propaganda influenced broad segments of the population in Nazi-occupied Soviet territories.

Read the full article here.

Georgia president sees strong U.S. ties maintained under Trump
By Margarita Antidze
Reuters, November 30, 2016

Georgia expects relations with the United States under Donald Trump to remain strong despite his calls for improved ties with Russia and Tbilisi will keep pressing for closer collaboration with NATO, the president of the ex-Soviet republic said.

Trump stirred concerns in central and eastern Europe during the U.S. election campaign with his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and also his suggestion that the United States may not defend allies deemed to spend too little on defense.

Hungary’s right-wing leader hopes Trump will bring him in from the cold
By Ishaan Tharoor
Washington Post, November 30, 2016

Before President-elect Donald Trump called for a clash of civilizations and suggested banning all Muslim arrivals to the United States, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, was leading the chorus.

The right-wing nationalist leader was bitterly opposed to Syrian refugees seeking to enter Europe. He declared migrants to be “poison” and fretted that the refugee exodus would threaten the continent's “Christian roots.” And his chief of staff said President Obama wanted “as many Muslims as possible in Europe.”

Is It Prudent or Paranoid to Worry about Russia’s Influence in the Baltics?
Atlantic Council, November 29, 2016

Russia has been busy spreading its influence in Europe and Eurasia. Alexander J. Motyl worries that the Baltic states are “the most vulnerable to a complete [Russian] takeover,” and security expert Paul D. Miller predicts that World War III could break out in Latvia. Last month Lithuania issued a manual on what to do if Russia invades. These scenarios might sound far-fetched from well-appointed conference rooms in Washington, but in Eastern Europe, they do not.

Read the full article here.

Tusk: Trump poses risk for Western unity on Russia
By Eszter Zalan
EUObserver, December 2, 2016

EU Council chief Donald Tusk has warned that it will be harder to keep the West united against Russia with Donald Trump in the White House than it has been with Barack Obama.

"Keeping European unity towards Russia in the conflict with Ukraine, and more broadly also in global issues, was possible also thanks to the large support from President Obama," Tusk told Polish broadcaster TVN24.
Read the full article here.

AP, November 30, 2016

The House on Wednesday passed a 93-page intelligence policy bill that calls for a high-level panel to counter Russian political interference around the globe. It's a measure that might run counter to President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to improve U.S. relations with Moscow.

The bipartisan bill, which passed by voice vote 390-30, addresses national security threats, activities of the U.S. intelligence community and congressional oversite issues.

Read the full article here.
Russian TV Channel Accuses Amnesty International of 'Terrorist Links'
Moscow Times, December 1, 2016

Russian television channel NTV has accused human rights charity Amnesty International of secret links to international terror groups.

The program, which aired on Wednesday night, alleged that the group was connected to terrorist attacks on Istanbul's Ataturk Airport in June, as they “had previously tried to protect the extremists.”

Read the full article here.
Latvians keep calm but also keep allies, weapons close
Deutsche Welle, November 30, 2016

Latvia is paying close attention to potential geopolitical developments, as US President-elect Donald Trump has suggested he may scale back US support to the NATO military alliance while Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to test the new leader's position.

The Latvian parliament passed a budget that will see the country's spending on defense rise from 1.4 percent of GDP this year to 1.7 percent next year and then up to the magic NATO number of 2 percent in 2018. Defense spending is one of the major factors Trump said he'd be looking at while gauging his enthusiasm for NATO's Article 5 obligation, which calls for the entire alliance to respond to attacks on a single member.

Read the full article here.
Yatsenyuk at the European Parliament: It’s Time for Europe to Do Its Part
By Amanda Abrams
Atlantic Council, December 1, 2016

With respect to Ukraine and Russia’s aggression in the eastern part of the country, Europe needs to step up its game. That was the consensus at “The War in Ukraine’s East: The Military Conflict, Diplomacy, and the Humanitarian Crisis,” a discussion co-hosted by the Atlantic Council and Members of the European Parliament Anna Maria Corazza Bildt and Anna Fotyga. The event, which occurred at the European Parliament in Brussels on November 29, also featured MEP Rebecca Harms, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and John E. Herbst, a former US ambassador to Ukraine and director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council.
Lithuania urges Trump to uphold US security commitment
By Lorne Cook
AP, December 2, 2016

Lithuania's president on Friday urged Donald Trump to uphold the United States' security commitment to Europe amid questions about the U.S. president-elect's intentions toward his NATO allies.

Watching over major NATO war games at Pabrade, near her small Baltic country's border with Belarus, President Dalia Grybauskaite said that as "the guarantor of peace after the Second World War in Europe," the United States long has shared responsibility for the continent's safety.
How will Trump’s presidency affect Polish politics?
By Aleks Szczerbiak
New Eastern Europe, December 2, 2016

Donald Trump’s election has raised concerns in Warsaw that the USA may be less willing to engage in European security and try and strike a bargain with Russia over the heads of Poland and other post-communist states. But while there are clearly potential risks for Polish security policy, Warsaw is likely to remain one of the Washington’s closest European allies. Trump’s victory also allows Poland’s right-wing ruling party to position itself as being in the vanguard of an anti-elitist and anti-liberal zeitgeist sweeping through the West.
‘Auschwitz on Ice’ is perfectly fine in Russia, where the Holocaust is not about the Jews
By Matt Lebovic
Times of Israel, November 29, 2016

Widely denounced as tasteless, the so-called “Auschwitz on Ice” figure-skating dance performed in Moscow on Saturday is only the proverbial iceberg’s tip when it comes to Holocaust memory in Russia.

There is no accounting for taste, of course, and the controversial routine was, after all, created by a Jewish choreographer who used images and a song from the 1997 Holocaust film “Life is Beautiful.” However, for some critics of the Putin regime, Shoah-related ice dances — of which there have actually been several — only scratch the surface of a more sinister problem with historical memory in Russia.
The lessons of Europe
By Rabbi David Wolpe
Jewish Journal, November 30, 2016

To walk through the great cities of Europe is to consort with ghosts. Where once the great homes and businesses were in Jewish hands, where within blocks there was a constellation of Jewish genius, now one visits museums commemorating the loss.

Read the full article here.
How the far right is trying to woo an unlikely ally — Jews
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post, November 29, 2016

Attendees gathered this month inside Vienna’s opulent Grand Hotel for an extraordinary event billed as the “New Anti-Semitism Conference.” The Israeli superspy who hunted down war criminal Adolf Eichmann flew in for the occasion, timed to commemorate the 1938 night when the Nazis stormed synagogues and Jewish businesses.

1120 20th Street NW, Ste. 300N Washington, DC 20036-3413
Telephone: +1 202 898 2500  |  ncsej@ncsej.org
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.