After 133 days of fighting, Russia’s control over Ukraine’s east is tightening. As the war continues, Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest, including both refugees who have fled as well as those remaining in Ukraine.
(For pre-crisis background on the Jewish community in Ukraine, see here).
- As fighting intensifies in Ukraine’s east, Ukrainian leaders are urging the remaining residents in the Donetsk region to evacuate to safer areas in the face of advancing Russian forces. “Russia has turned the entire Donetsk region into a hot spot where it is dangerous to remain for civilians,” the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko said. “I call on everyone to evacuate. Evacuation saves lives.”
- Although some are still resisting calls from officials to evacuate, most people have already left the Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region. Only around 340,000 people - out of 1.7 million before the war – remain.
- As potential global grain shortages are increasingly worrying world leaders, Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky said that 22 million tons of grain are currently blocked from leaving Ukraine by Russian forces, and warned that that number could triple in the next few months. "Then we will be in a really difficult, very difficult situation," he said.
- NATO has formally begun the process of Sweden and Finland joining the western military alliance, with members signing the protocols of accession in what its secretary-general called a “historic moment.” The move will bring the US-led military alliance up to Finland's 830-mile border with Russia.
- The UN Human Rights Council says that some 8.4 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 3.1 million refugees who initially fled Ukraine have since returned. See here for an overall mapping of the situation of Ukrainian refugees in the neighboring countries. For details on where Ukrainian refugees have been fleeing to, see here.
Following an important Supreme Court decision in Israel, President Zelensky tweeted, “I commend the decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Israel, which obliges the government of Israel to abolish any additional restrictions on the entry of citizens of Ukraine.” Zelensky was praising the High Court of for abolishing restrictions on the entry of Ukrainian citizens with no Jewish connection that had been established by Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. The High Court approved the request to eliminate Shaked’s 5,000-person quota during the current Russia-Ukraine wartime period, saying that the tourist visa deal between Israel and Ukraine did not draw a distinction between wartime and peacetime.
Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai praised the High Court’s decision in this editorial.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that an Israeli citizen fighting on behalf of Ukraine was taken captive by pro-Russian forces in the Luhansk region. After a video of the Israeli, named as Vladimir Kozlovsky, apparently filmed in captivity and identifying himself as Israeli, began circulating on social media, the Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the case and was handling the situation. In the video, Kozlovsky — who has been living in Ukraine for many years — is seen displaying his Israeli ID card and identifying himself as a signal operator in the Ukrainian intelligence forces. Read more here.
REFUGEES, FEDERATIONS, AND PARTNERS ON THE GROUND
Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts, and have collectively raised more than $71 million since the fighting began. For full details about Federations’ response to the crisis in Ukraine, please see here, and for details about the impact that Federations work is having on those fleeing, see here.
Through both directed and collective grant making, Federations are supporting numerous NGO’s that are operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries. This includes Jewish Federation partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and World ORT; as well as United Hatzalah, Hillel International, Nefesh B'Nefesh, HIAS, the Israel Trauma Coalition, Hadassah Medical Organization, Chabad, Shma Yisrael, Project Kesher, JCC Krakow, Jewish Community Vienna, the Emergency Volunteer Program, Magen David Adom, Global Surgical Medical Corps, Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rescuers Without Borders and others.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine and the region, supported by Federation emergency allocations. Among many efforts, since fighting began on February 24, JDC has:
- Evacuated over 12,771 Jews from Ukraine
- Provided over 38,723 refugees with food, medicine, trauma support and more
- Provided over 565 tons of humanitarian assistance, including over 7 tons of medication
- Treated over 10,000 patients at the JDC-Natan health clinic
- Received over 18,228 incoming calls to JDC hotlines, and made over 41,839 outgoing calls
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine.
According to multiple Israeli media reports, the Russian government has informed the Jewish Agency that its activities in the country violate Russian law and must therefore cease.
Since the letter did not explicitly demand that the Agency cease operations immediately; the organization says it is treating the letter as a starting point for negotiations that may ultimately result in a compromise.
As of now, the agency’s informational and educational activities are continuing as usual, as are its flights bringing new immigrants to Israel. The Jewish Agency issued a statement saying that the organization "Wishes to clarify that, despite certain reports, it did not receive instructions from the Russian government to stop its activities." It added, "All of the agency's programs and planned activities are proceeding as planned."
NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief is an all-volunteer Israeli humanitarian disaster relief organization that collaborates with international NGOs and local communities throughout the world. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, more than 10,000 Ukrainian refugees have received medical care and psychosocial support from NATAN. As of today, 109 volunteers have served in NATAN’s Ukraine Refugee Relief Operation, and 11 delegations have deployed to the region. NATAN volunteers in these delegations have included 40 doctors, 20 registered nurses, 28 social workers, 6 psychologists, 1 pharmacist, 1 medical clown and others.
OTHER UKRAINE NEWS
- For the last few months, a lakeside palace in Hungary has been home to Jewish refugees from Ukraine. Just before Pesach, six weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Hungarian government signed off on an effort to make the palace in Balatonőszöd, (a resort town on Lake Balaton, some 80 miles away from Budapest), kosher for the holiday. Now, the palace will be renovated to accommodate at least 664 people with a kosher kitchen able to feed hundreds more daily, according to a statement released Tuesday by the government and a Chabad-affiliated Jewish group that has been operating the space. Read more here.
- Read this article where exiled Russian scholar Gasan Gusejnov, who’s half-Jewish and half-Azeri, and is currently in Israel, argues that, “For the first time, being Russian has become a liability.”
- This piece in the Times of Israel says that Russia’s antisemitism aimed at Zelensky is “a variant of a very old European virus.”
- UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, has inscribed the “culture of cooking traditional Ukrainian – Jewish borsch soup” on its list of endangered Ukrainian cultural heritage items. The move was urged by Kyiv but vehemently opposed by Moscow. Read more here.
Jewish Federations continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine closely, and, working with our partners, are offering considerable relief efforts to those most in need.
For more information, please contact: JFNA’s Dani Wassner.