Jewish groups were troubled today by a thinly veiled anti-Semitic appeal made by the leadership of the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics,” who referred to the central government in Kyiv as “pathetic representatives of the great Jewish people.”

During a press conference on February 2 captured on YouTube, Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky – respectively of Donetsk and Lugansk – asked how “Cossacks could be ruled by the not quite right kind of people.” After several minutes of calling on Ukrainian citizens to disobey and reject President Poroshenko and his government, Zakharenko explicitly mentioned ‘Jews,’ and Plotnitsky immediately attempted to provide cover against accusations of anti-Semitism by referring to a YouTube video about ‘Jewish Cossacks.’

“Those watching understood very well that this was an anti-Semitic appeal,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Their body language clearly gave them away as Plotnitsky began to smirk at the beginning of the performance, knowing what was coming, and Zakharenko, who tried not to laugh as he was speaking, said ‘Jews’ very subtly, before Plotnitsky tried to inoculate them from the anti-Semitism accusation with his comments, which came so quickly they were clearly pre-planned.”

Mr. Foxman added, “Anti-Semitism has no place in political speech, and any attempt to espouse anti-Jewish hatred within any political arena is simply unacceptable.”

In April 2014, ADL condemned the appearance of anti-Semitic fliers in Donetsk, which were handed out on the first night of Passover instructing Jews to register with the government or face deportation and confiscation of their property.