More than 20 religious and business leaders from Ukraine's Jewish community have signed a scathing letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin demanding that he stop using propaganda that "Russian-speaking" Jewish citizens need his protection.
"You have stated that Russia wants to protect the rights of the Russian-speaking citizens of the Crimea and all of Ukraine and that these rights have been trampled by the current Ukrainian government," the letter states. "Historically, Ukrainian Jews are also mostly Russian-speaking. Thus, our opinion on what is happening carries no less weight than the opinion of those who advise and inform you."
"We are convinced that you are not easily fooled. This means that you must be consciously picking and choosing lies and slander from the entire body of information on Ukraine," it states.
The letter, which is posted on the Voices Of Ukraine website, was still adding signatures of Jewish leaders on Thursday. Some of those who signed the letter include Josef Zisels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine; Rabbi Alex Dukhovny, head rabbi of the Ukrainian Progressive Judaism communities; Rabbi Reuven Stamov, head rabbi of the Ukrainian Traditional Judaism communities; and Anatoliy Podolsky, director of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies.
Foreigners living in Ukraine carry their national flags during mass rally in Kiev called 'Ukraine and Crimea are together' on March 2, 2014. (AFP/Getty Images/ Yuriy Dyachyshyn)
The Ukrainian Catholic community has also voiced its disapproval of Putin's military intervention of Crimea.
The Jewish leaders' letter ended with a blunt statement to Putin.
"[W]e highly value your concern about the safety and rights of Ukrainian national minorities. But we do not wish to be 'defended' by sundering Ukraine and annexing its territory. … [W]e are quite capable of protecting our rights in a constructive dialogue and in cooperation with the government and civil society of a sovereign, democratic, and united Ukraine. We strongly urge you not to destabilize the situation in our country and to stop your attempts of delegitimizing the new Ukrainian government."
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