LAST UPDATE: 20:15
Ukraine today accused Belarus of exacerbating tensions at their borders, which have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by encouraging Jewish pilgrims to go to the country, even though about 2,000 of them have been trapped there.
“Currently, up to 2,000 Hasidic pilgrims are on the border between Belarus and Ukraine. Most of them come from Israel believing the rumors that Ukraine had opened its border with Belarus,” said the presidency.
“We call on the Belarusian authorities to stop escalating tensions on the border with our country and not to spread false statements that raise hopes for the pilgrims, giving them the impression that Ukraine’s borders may be open to foreigners,” said Ukrainian presidency in an announcement.
Orthodoxtimes.com contacted Jonathan Benjamin Markovitch, chief Rabbi of Kyiv and an official representative of Lubavitcher Rabbi.
Speaking to our website, Rabbi made the following statement:
“As the Chief Rabbi of the city of Kyiv, and a Ukrainian, I again call on all Jews to respect the Laws of Ukraine and the Laws of the Torah, in particular the need to take care of their health and the safety of others. And respect the Border Crossing Rules.
Decisions are being worked out on how to get out of this humanitarian crisis, a meeting of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and Mr. Minister Arsen Avakov took place recently. Natan Ben Nun, the head of the Breclav community, and I were there.
We support the actions of the Ukrainian authorities, but we have also organized the necessary amount of kosher food for them, and we are sure that everything will end well and safely for everyone.”
The presidency did not say whether the 2,000 Jewish pilgrims were in the same place from where they left across the border. This morning, both Ukraine and Belarus had counted about a thousand people in the neutral zone near the Novi Yarilovichi border post.
They had traveled to Belarus wanting to go to Ukraine in view of an annual pilgrimage to the center of the country while Kyiv announced the closure of its border to foreigners due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
On his part, the Ukrainian Interior Minister said that the Novi Yarilovichi border post remained closed due to the epidemiological situation.
“We remind you that there are currently Hasidic pilgrims who do not give up trying to come to Ukraine. These people are provided with food and water,” said the Ukrainian government in a statement.