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US Condemns Anti-Semitic Leaflets In Ukraine

FILE - People lay flowers at a menorah monument close to the Babi Yar ravine where the Nazis machine-gunned tens of thousands of Jews during WWII, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 30, 2012.
Leaflets ordering Jews in eastern Ukraine to register with a self-proclaimed local authority have drawn the condemnation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Jewish organizations also are denouncing the action.

Jewish groups in eastern Ukraine say official-looking documents were circulated late Tuesday in the city of Donetsk, calling on Jews to register with the Nationalities Commissioner and pay $50 or lose their citizenship and be deported.

The leaflets were said to be handed out by three people wearing ski masks and carrying Russian flags, near the synagogue in Donetsk.

The pro-Russian Donetsk Republic denies any involvement. It says the leaflets are fake.

Pro-Russian gunmen have seized Ukrainian government buildings in several eastern towns and cities. Ukrainian troops are conducting operations to retake the buildings.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the distribution of the leaflets.

"In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled in all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it's grotesque, is beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of, there is no place for that," said Kerry.

Kerry spoke in Geneva, after diplomats from the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine reached agreement on steps to calm tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

He also sharply criticized apparent threats to members of the Russian Orthodox Church from members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Here in Washington, Executive Director Mark Levin of the Jewish organization NCSJ says Jews in Donetsk are very concerned about the distribution of the leaflets.

"They and we see the distribution of these leaflets as a provocation. From whom, and why, we're not exactly sure, but it certainly had its intended effect," said Levin.

Levin says anti-Semitic incidents have been building in eastern Ukraine.

"The Ukrainian Jewish community has tried not to get caught in the middle of this conflict, or to be used as a scapegoat by either side. The level of anti-Semitism has been sporadic, at best, over the last four months in Ukraine," he said.

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