A Ukrainian rabbi whose congregation was the target of an anti-Semitic leaflet that captured worldwide interest said he believes it was a hoax and wants the issue ended, Reuters reported.

Pinchas Vishedski (Image source: ABC News via YouTube)

Pinchas Vishedski (Image source: ABC News via YouTube) 

On Monday evening, as Jews exited a synagogue following a Passover service, masked men distributed fliers allegedly from pro-Russian separatists who took the regional authority building in Donetsk and propped themselves up as its government.

It also ordered all Jews to register with them or face deportation — a chilling replay of actions that ravaged Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

But Pinchas Vishedski, chief rabbi of the Donetsk area’s 15,000 Jews, told Reuters on Saturday that he believes the initially shocking leaflet was a political hoax — “a crude provocation,” he told the news outlet.

“I’m asking those behind this not to make us tools in this game,” he told Reuters, adding that anti-Semitic incidents in the Russian-speaking east were “rare, unlike in Kiev and western Ukraine.”

Vishedski was quoted on Thursday via the community’s website: “Since it’s only a smear, we should react responsibly — draw a line under it and close the matter.”

TheBlaze raised the question of the flier’s authenticity in a follow-up story.

Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, also said the leaflet was a fake — and presumably originating with supporters of the Ukrainian government as a way to derail his movement.

More from Reuters:

On the same day, however, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after agreeing a peace plan with Russia that he condemned the “grotesque” incident in Donetsk.

Other U.S. officials also voiced outrage. A senior senator said Russian President Vladimir Putin had accused Ukrainian nationalists who seized power in Kiev of anti-Semitism, “but now it is pro-Russian forces that are engaged in these grotesque acts.”

On Saturday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk vowed to use “every legal means” to prevent the “import” of anti-Semitism and xenophobia and indirectly blamed Russia.

“The ideology and practice of pogroms, exported by a neighboring state, will not be allowed into Ukraine,” he said.

Read the rest of the Reuters story here.

Here’s an ABC News report with Vishedski in which he discusses the flier and his community’s reaction to it:

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