KIEV, Ukraine, April 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amid dramatic and still unfolding developments in Ukraine, a five-member AJC leadership delegation is visiting Kiev for three days to meet with top government officials, Western diplomats, and leaders of the Jewish community.
The visit included a 70-minute meeting today with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who spoke about the many challenges facing his government, including especially what he described as substantial Russian activity in the east and south of the country, as well as the country's pressing economic challenges and the need for sustained American and European support and commitment.
In addition to the meeting with the Prime Minister, the delegation met with Chief of Security Services Valentin Nalivaichenko; Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky; U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt; Israeli Deputy Ambassador to Ukraine Itzhak Carmel Kagan; and Member of Parliament Petro Poroshenko. The group also held sessions with leaders of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, as well as with other Jewish representatives.
"Since 1991, AJC has staunchly supported an independent Ukraine aligned with democratic values and free to chart its own destiny," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Kiev many times and was honored by the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Viktor Yuschenko in 2008. "We applaud the progress following the dramatic Maidan protests, even as we fully recognize the myriad challenges facing the country each and every day. It's vitally important for the world to grasp just what's at stake -- and not just for the country itself, but also far beyond -- in ensuring that Ukraine remain free and united."
Several government officials condemned unequivocally the recent acts of anti-Semitism in Donetsk and Nikolayev. "The current Ukrainian government stressed to us its commitment to combating anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and xenophobia," Harris said.
"There is real concern about the dangers posed by outside provocateurs playing the 'anti-Semitism card' and also about far-right, ultra-nationalist groups in Ukraine. In response, we were told, the clear message from the government is that acts of anti-Semitism are intolerable, are contrary to the 'new Ukraine,' and will not go unpunished," Harris added.
The group visited the imposing Maidan Square, which became the symbol of the successful Ukrainian effort to oust President Viktor Yanukovich's government, and where over 100 people lost their lives. Bullet holes can be seen in buildings surrounding the square, the result largely of sniper fire by the forces deployed by Yanukovich against the massive crowds of protesters.
The AJC visit will conclude on Tuesday, when Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold meetings with top Ukrainian officials.
This is the second AJC fact-finding and solidarity mission to Ukraine in the past seven weeks alone.