Yushchenko put to the test by letter accusing Jews of killings

May 20, 2005

The founder of a private university in Kiev is at the centre of a political scandal after publishing an open letter demanding that Jewish organisations be outlawed and blaming Jews for "genocide" against Ukrainians.

Georgy Shchekin, president of Kiev's Inter-regional Academy for Personnel Management (IAPM), published the letter in the academy's weekly newspaper in April.

The letter was addressed to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. It was signed by more than 100 public figures, including three professors and the chairman of the Union of Lecturers in Higher Education. The letter accuses "Bolsheviks mainly of Jewish decent" of organising the "planned genocide" of 10 million Ukrainians.

Jewish organisations in Ukraine have complained that the Government's reaction to the letter has been inadequate. State Secretary Aleksander Zinchenko issued a statement condemning the letter. In a speech to the US Congress in early April Mr Yushchenko declared his intention to "root out... anti-Semitism and xenophobia".

But many of the signatories backed Mr Yushchenko during the power struggle in November when protests at electoral fraud grew into the Orange Revolution.

"Almost all the signatories are Yushchenko supporters, so the Government is finding it difficult to react to the letter," said Vyacheslav Likhachev, a spokesperson for the Va'ad, an umbrella organisation of Ukrainian Jews.

"Some believe the IAPM is working to discredit Yushchenko and the letter is a provocation."

Mr Shchekin is known for his extremist views. The IAPM's website invites visitors to read an essay by Mr Shchekin's accusing Jewish people of "fascist barbarism". Mr Shchekin has successfully sued Jewish organisations for accusations of inciting racial hatred. In March the justice ministry registered the Conservative Party, led by Mr Shchekin, to take part in general elections in 2006.

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