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Jews Ordered to Register in Eastern Ukraine

Leaflets have been distributed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings, telling Jews they must "register" with the local authorities or face consequences.

The leaflets purport to come from the Donetsk People's Republic, a self-proclaimed, unrecognized breakaway authority that seeks to join Russia. The Donetsk Republic press office denied any involvement in the matter.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered them to pay a $50 registration fee or risk losing their citizenship and face deportation. The leaflets say the requirement is because the Jewish community supports the interim Ukraine government in Kyiv.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday condemned the news as "grotesque" and "intolerable". He also sharply criticized apparent threats to members of the Russian Orthodox Church from members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The U.S. State Department says it is investigating the incident, and takes the threat seriously, regardless of who produced the leaflets.

A U.S. organization that advocates for Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union states has spoken with Jewish leaders in Donetsk, who say they are concerned about the incident. The NCSJ - National Conference Supporting Jews - says local authorities in Donetsk have repudiated the flyers, and claim they are being distributed to cause unrest. But a spokesman told VOA it is not clear who distributed them or why.