Widespread news accounts of handbills being circulated in the troubled eastern Ukraine province of Donetsk calling for registration of all Jews with a putative separatist government may have been a hoax, according to a report in New Republic magazine.
New Republic's Julia Ioffe reported, “One local snapped a photo of the fliers and sent it to a friend in Israel, who then took it to the Israeli press and, voila, an international scandal: American Twitter is abuzz with it, Drudge is hawking it, and ... in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the fliers as 'grotesque.'”
Kerry said in that April 17 press conference,
In 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, and unanimously every party today joined in this condemnation of that kind of behavior.
Donetsk is a highly industrialized region of the Ukraine, lying on the easternmost border with Russia. In early April, an uprising of ethnic minority Russians took over some government buildings around the Donetsk oblast (state), an uprising that is ongoing. Al Jazeera reported an April 17 attack by militants against the Ukrainian military base in the Donetsk port town of Mariupol on the Black Sea. No Ukrainian soldiers were hurt, but three of the militants were killed in the melee.
Donetsk also has heavy mining interests, and some observers have speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin, coveting these interests, may move to absorb Donetsk into Russia, just as Ukraine's Crimea region was annexed by Russia under a dubious vote and treaty in March. But unlike the Crimea — which was part of Russia until the 1950s and is still populated by a majority of ethnic Russians — Donetsk has a majority of ethnic Ukrainians. Donetsk's absorption into Russia is unlikely absent an invasion from Russia.
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Photo of Red flag in Donetsk: AP Images