NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As Jews across the Tri-State area are celebrating Passover, a chilling new development is taking place in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which has recently been caught up in a wave of pro-Russian turmoil.
Flyers, purportedly distributed by pro-Russian rebels, are demanding Jews register with the “Nationalities Commissioner” and pay $50 or lose their citizenship and face deportation, according to a translation provided by the National Conference Supporting Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia (NCSJ).
It sent a chill around the world, reminiscent of a dark time from the last century.
“It is a stark example of anti-Semitism and a way of intimidating the Jewish community,” Michael Salberg with the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith said.
Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the flyers, saying their distribution is “grotesque.”
According to the NCSJ, the leaflets read:
Dear citizens of Jewish nationality! Due to the fact that leaders of the Jewish Community of Ukraine support the Bandera junta in Kiev and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the main headquarters of the Donetsk Republic declares the following:
• Every citizen of Jewish nationality older than 16 years, residing in the territory of a sovereign Donetsk Republic has to go to Donetsk Regional Administrator to see the Nationalities Commissioner, Office 514, for registration. The registration fee is $50.
• Persons should have with them with cash in the amount of $50 for registration, a passport to mark their religion, and documents of family members, as well as ownership documents for their properties and vehicles.
• In case of failure to register, the perpetrators will lose their citizenship and will be deported outside the republic, with their property confiscated.
The flyers were signed by the leader of Donetsk’s pro-Russian separatists, the NCSJ said.
The separatists denied they distributed the flyers and called them a provocation, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing news website tvrain.ru.
Watch President Obama’s Full News Conference:
“In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable; it’s grotesque,” said Kerry. “It 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.”
New Yorkers said registration of Jews for any reason touches a raw nerve.
“I can’t imagine that that would really happen because that would just be a setback, a throwback of history that cannot be repeated,” Upper West Sider Karn Fittenhoff said.
A rabbi in Donetsk said he assuring the world that no one in his community is registering with anyone.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, President Obama said he’s hopeful, but also skeptical Russia will keep to an agreement with Ukraine to end the violence.
Talks to end the crisis come even as masked men lobbed molotov cocktails overnight trying to take a Ukrainian National Guard base. Blood was spilled when Ukrainian soldiers fought back, killing three and wounding 13.
Diplomats from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union now say that from this point forward, the protests should stop, illegally seized buildings returned and international monitors allowed in to supervise the deal.
Russian president Vladamir Putin continues to deny any involvement in the Ukraine unrest and President Obama Thursday afternoon said he’s waiting to see if Putin’s actions match up with his rhetoric.
“My hope is that we actually do see follow through over the next several days. But I don’t think given past performance that we can count on that,” President Obama said.
For additional coverage of the situation in Ukraine, including recent diplomatic moves, head to our colleagues at CBS News.com.
You may also be interested in these stories: