A Jewish man is in critical condition after being assaulted by a neo-Nazi gang in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the city’s Jewish community reported on Monday, as local police attempted to determine the motivation behind the incident.
According to Jewish community representatives, an ultra-Orthodox student by the name of Aharon Alexander, 25, was attacked by skinheads near Kiev’s central synagogue.
However, despite the assertion by Kiev’s Jewish community leaders that Alexander’s wounds were the result of an anti-Semitic attack, local police officials indicated that the investigation was ongoing, and they were also looking into the possibility that the young Haredi tripped in the street.
At first, Alexander was reportedly missing for nearly 24 hours, until a doctor sent by the Jewish community was able to identify him in one of the city’s hospitals. Alexander, following head surgery, was said to be in critical condition.
Other than a severe injury to his head, the Jewish man also reportedly suffered bruises in his upper body.
Following the incident, a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday participated by chief rabbi of the Ukrainian Jewish community Moshe Reuven Asman, Israel’s ambassador to the country Reuven Diner, and the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Yanukovich.
Speaking with Haaretz, the head of Kiev’s Jewish community Yaakov Zilberman said that the community was “disturbed by the assault” and intends to “act against a cover-up of incident as well as of the rise in anti-Semitism.”
In a statement released following the incident, the European Jewish Congress said they were “confident that the Ukrainian authorities will act swiftly against the perpetrators of this hate crime and will bring them to swift justice.”
“We call on European leaders to act swiftly to strengthen legislation, bolster education and increase intelligence sharing to prevent what could become a tsunami of hate and violence against the Jews of Europe,” the statement said.
Last month, a Jewish group said that a Holocaust memorial has been vandalized in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
Oleksandr Nazar of the city’s Sholem Aleichem Jewish Culture Center said that unknown assailants smeared red and blue paint over the memorial in central Lviv.
He said the vandals also wrote a statement on the memorial which “humiliates both Jews and Ukrainians.”
Nazar said Friday that activists have cleaned off most of the paint and that Lviv police have launched an investigation.
Lviv, a vibrant center of Jewish life before the Holocaust, is now home to a few thousand Jews, according to Nazar. Some 1.4 million of Soviet Ukraine’s 2.4 million Jews were executed, starved to death or died of disease during World War II.