- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 14, 2004

KIEV — Ukraine’s liberal and socialist opposition is in the center of a political storm after leaping to the defense of a newspaper ordered to shut down by a Kiev court for publishing anti-Semitic articles.

The incident highlights the tenuous position of the Jews in Eastern Europe after decades of repression, with undercurrents of anti-Semitism still running strong.

The Silski Visti newspaper, which has a circulation of more than 500,000 and is affiliated with the opposition Socialist Party, is being sued by the International Antifascist Committee for “encouraging racial hatred,” because it published two articles by professor Vasil Yaramenko.

The author accused Jews of having organized the great Ukraine famine of 1933 that killed millions of people, and which historians blame on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

He also claimed that Jewish agents made up 99 percent of the NKVD political police (later known as the KGB), which he said killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s and was run by a Stalin crony.

Mr. Yaramenko went even further, claiming that “400,000 Jewish SS” invaded Ukraine along with German troops during World War II.

For good measure, he attacked “Zionist oligarchs” (tycoons), including Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

The discontent escalated when all three opposition parties — including the liberals — rose to Silski Visti’s defense.

The parties — the blocs headed by presidential hopefuls Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko, and Olexander Moroz’s Socialist Party — claimed the decision to shut down the paper was a ploy by the Kuchma administration to influence the next presidential election, scheduled for October.

Liberal political commentators and Jewish community leaders said they were stunned by the opposition’s position.

In an article published in the opposition online daily Ukraynskaya Pravda, former Soviet dissident Volodymyr Malinkovich said the parties’ behavior pointed to a “problem with democracy” in the former Soviet republic.

“Silski Visti is a tendentious newspaper that publishes gross, provocative articles when asked to. The opposition, which views itself as democratic, should be ashamed of its solidarity with this kind of press,” Mr. Malinkovich wrote.

Eduard Dolinsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s Jewish community council, said the shutdown of Silski Visti was “a great victory, something unique in Ukraine” — a country where anti-Semitic propaganda is freely available in most bookstores.

“For years, this newspaper has disseminated its hateful propaganda. And the opposition has completely discredited itself,” Mr. Dolinsky said.

In what looked like a damage control, Mr. Yushchenko, whose own father was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Germans during World War II, eventually backtracked, saying Silski Visti should “apologize to those who were offended by the articles it published.” The paper so far has refused to do so.

However, some opposition deputies were unrepentant.

“This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism,” said Socialist Party deputy leader Ivan Boky.

“Mr. Yaromenko is a researcher who writes on complex historical issues. Saying that Jewish bankers reduced Ukrainians to utter poverty is a fact, not racial hatred,” Mr. Boky said.

“It is not the first time that the presidential administration has been trying to close this newspaper down,” he added.

By issuing such comments, the Ukrainian opposition is harming its own credibility, said former dissident Mr. Malinkovich.

“Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party are shooting themselves in the foot in order to appeal to nationalistic, poor voters who are looking for scapegoats,” he said.

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