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Ukrainian protest speaker to Jewish oligarchs: ‘Give Yanukovych a gun’

JTA

February 20, 2014 | 1:17 pm

Smoke rises above burning barricades at Independence Square during anti-government protests in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 20. Photo by David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters

Smoke rises above burning barricades at Independence Square during anti-government protests in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 20. Photo by David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters

An unidentified speaker onstage at the protest encampment in Kiev’s Independence Square told Jewish oligarchs to “give [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovych a gun” and predicted the decline of their fortunes  they “earned using the work of [the Ukrainian] people.”

The speech was given on a stage surrounded by burning barricades, which has been continuously occupied by an array of protest speakers, musical performers and opposition politicians since the outbreak of severe violence in Kiev on Tuesday. Kiev’s Independence Square is considered the epicenter of the protest movement, and is currently the site of fighting between police forces and protesters.

“I wish to address the oligarchs: Akhmetov, you are a Muslim,” the speaker, who identified himself as a Muslim, began, referring to Ukrainian multibillionaire Rinat Akhmetov. Addressing Victor Pinchuk and Ihor Kolomoyskyi, Ukrainian billionaires of Jewish descent, the speaker continued, “You practice Judaism. In the holy synagogue, you have seats with placards. And you, today, are the only people who have access to Yanukovych. In another week, your businesses, which you have earned in this land through the work of this people, will fall. And if he doesn’t listen to you, present him, as the chief commander of the armed forces, with a gun.”

Ukrainian sources indicated that the speech seemed to imply Pinchuk and fellow leading businessmen should encourage the embattled president to commit suicide.

Pinchuk and Kolomoyskyi have been linked with opposition politicians, and Pinchuk in particular has strongly supported close ties between Ukraine and the European Union. The current conflict began after Yanukovych rejected a trade agreement with the EU in favor of entering a Russia-led customs union.

Kolomoyskyi was perceived to be a central donor to opposition politician Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR Party in the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, according to public research organization Center for Eastern Studies.

Although Pinchuk and Kolomoyskyi have not publicly acted in support of the protest movement, Pinchuk told the Financial Times that the movement “gives me great optimism regarding the future of our country.”

As the violence continues, Ukrainians running the gamut of the political spectrum are participating in the sprawling movement identified with the square, known colloquially as EuroMaidan. Anti-Semitism has been spotted as part of the protest movement and the participation of the right-wing Svoboda (Freedom) party has evoked concern among Jewish leaders.

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