Report: Jewish residents being forced to "register" by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukrainian city; Update: U.S. ambassador confirms; Update: Hoax?

Interesting how the designated villain justifying Russian aggression keeps changing. In Russia itself, it’s gays who are the insidious western agents subverting the order from within. In Kiev it’s “Nazis” within the Euromaidan movement who fill that role, allegedly hellbent on exacting revenge against ethnic Russians for World War II unless Czar Vladimir intervenes to protect them.

Evidently, in Donetsk, they like their scapegoats more traditional.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website…

The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government,” and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas, according to the report.

Pushilin acknowledged the flyers were distributed by his organization but he disavowed their content, according to the web site Jews of Kiev, Ynet reported…

It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.

They’re demanding ID, passports, “religious documents,” and documents related to real property, as well as a $50 registration fee. Failure to comply means revocation of one’s citizenship in Ukraine — or “Novo Russia,” as Putin referred today to the eastern part of the country — and deportation. No word yet on armbands, but stay tuned. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen conflicting reports on whether Pushilin, the local thug whose name is on the flyer, admits that it came from his group or not. The USA Today story quoted above, citing Ynet, says he did; the JTA, however, cites a Russian website that claims Pushilin denies the flyer came from the group at all and is actually some sort of false-flag provocation. It would be a clever ruse for Ukrainian nationalists to do something to cast Putin’s admirers as the real Nazis, after so much propaganda from Moscow to the contrary. (In fact, the Russian-backed Yanukovych regime liked to rile up its riot police by accusing the maidan protesters of being led by Jews.) But the element of revanchism here, in wanting to punish the city’s Jews for their ancestors’ support for independence from Russia decades ago, is right in line with the tide of Russian irredentism towards Ukraine generally. It probably did come from Pushilin’s group. No wonder Natan Sharansky expects aliyah from Ukraine to double this year.

If you’re expecting the Ukrainian army to do anything about this, forget it. They’re broke, disorganized, facing defections from Russian loyalists in the ranks, and thus understandably reluctant to commit to a fight they can’t win. The best check on persecution by Russian forces is publicity, I think: Putin wants his reclamation of Ukraine to be seen as something virtuous, an operation that is itself designed to stop the phantom persecution of ethnic Russians by “Nazis.” The more his own side behaves like honest-to-goodness Nazis, the harder that charade is to maintain. Hopefully he’s still at the point where he cares about maintaining the charade at all.

Update: If this is a hoax or false flag, it’s good enough to fool the U.S. diplomatic corps.

Update: Some locals maintain that it is in fact a false flag by Ukrainian nationalists designed to make the Putinistas look bad:

The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed this as “a provocation,” which it clearly is. “It’s an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry,” says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. “I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid—this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east.”

Why? The Russian government has been playing up the (real but small) role of fascists and neo-Nazis in the victory of the EuroMaidan in Kiev. The Ukrainian government, utterly powerless to fight off the Russians and their local stooges, have had to rely on other methods, like leaking taped phone calls of allegedly local separatists getting their commands from Moscow. This may be just another tactic to smear the so-called anti-Maidan in the east of Ukraine: you think we’re fascists? Well, take a look at these guys.