Young Jew Carries Captured Flagstaff of the Ukrainian President to Protesters on Maidan
As reported by Shimon Briman of the Forum Daily:
A religious Jew, who takes part in services on Brodsky St., was the central figure of the storming of “Ukraine House” on Europe Square in Kiev. Along with radical Ukrainian nationalists from the “Right Section” he stormed this key complex, and then led negotiations to free 200 policemen who were stranded there.
At 4:30am on January 26th, a few thousand protesters from Maidan were able to enter the gigantic complex of the “Ukraine House” (previously Lenin Museum) on Kreschatik Street. The storming of the complex took place several minutes after 200 armed soldiers and cadets of the Internal Security Services left the complex through a side entrance. The fact that the soldiers were able to leave the premises of the building without any bloodshed was the result of three-hour negotiations between the leaders of the protesters and the police hostages.
The most vital negotiations were led by a young Jewish man—a Maidan activist, who’s been a vocal activist in the opposition movement in Ukraine. He regularly prays at the central synagogue on Brodsky and is well known in the local Jewish community as well as the Ukrainian business community. In his interview with the Forum Daily, he asked that his name not be revealed for fear of retaliation by the authorities.
The following is his story regarding the standoff in which the fate of the 200 barricaded policemen and thousands of Maidan supporters was decided. It could have easily led to serious injuries if not murder.
“I led the negotiations and was able to free them (the police cadets). I held off masses of people for the duration of two hours so that they wouldn’t lynch the police. I made a deal with their colonel and continued to wait for the arrival of (Vitali) Klitschko. I handed out orders for the evacuation of the wounded soldiers. Only when Klitschko arrived along with other members of the opposition, did we let them out through a chain of protesters.”
On How the Police Evacuated Ukraine House:
“They didn’t leave as heroes. Some were crying and begging us to leave them their clothes. When we liberated the building, we saw two clamps in a special room. The guys decided to carry these to the barricades on Maidan in order to raise the spirits of our fighters—these are, after all, symbols of Ukrainian authority. At around 5am, I carried the Presidential flagstaff to Maidan and we stood there with the Ukrainian flag. We felt as if we were standing with our flag atop the Reichstag. We later returned it, but the most important thing was having carried out a tactical victory in the ‘Ukraine House.’”
“I’m telling you all this in order to demonstrate that the role of Jews in Maidan wasn’t limited to asking for help and that type of thing, but that we also actively oppose dictatorship and support European values. We don’t hide at home. I’ve seen dozens of Jewish guys helping out the protesters on Maidan. My friend, Valeriy is one of the top ideologists of Maidan and he’s Jewish too.”
The young man also told me that he’s in close contact with the most “hot-headed” people in Maidan—the fighters of the so-called “Right Sector.” It’s well known that amongst their ranks are many Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. Despite this, religious Jews are somehow able to find a common language with them.
He says that “these are very well-spoken guys. Only the authority people are thugs. I deal with the radicals. They’re OK people. We communicate on the level of fighters. I led their group that Wednesday night at ‘Ukraine House.’ They all know I’m Jewish and we’re still very close—they listen to me and carry out my orders.”
I asked him if he knows a Roman Kolomiyez, who recently called on people to beat up members of the “special forces” with a picture in which a Ukrainian is beating up a Jew who’s lying in a pool of blood. No, he doesn’t know him.
Three hours after the peaceful takeover of ‘Ukraine House’ and the prevention of bloodshed there, the hero of the story received an SMS from his Ukrainian friend, who was the head negotiator that stormy night. I’m providing a picture of that SMS (without the name of the sender).
Another young man, who’s well known in the capital’s synagogue, was one of the key activists in AvtoMaidan. Recently, he was the target of a special forces attack. According to his friends, a special forces unit pulled him out of a car and savagely beat him up. He escaped miraculously. He has a broken hand, multiple hematomas, open wounds and a puncture in his right lung. He’s currently hiding in a safe house and his wounded lung is about to be operated on for a second time.
The protests in Kiev and many other Ukrainian cities haven’t left the leaders of the small local Jewish community watching from the sidelines. While religious authorities have been calling on their supporters to stay out of the conflict, (the head Rabbi of Ukraine, Moshe-Reuven Azman has repeated this sentiment several times) dozens of young Jews have been actively partaking in the opposition movement. They can be seen in all types of Maidan activities—among the local ideologists and journalists, doctors providing medical aid in a tent right on Kreschatik, as well as “the leading fighters”—like the hero of this article for example.
According to a number of Jews who were interviewed, they’re getting involved due to the lawlessness of the authorities, the government’s total corruption, the strangling of human rights, and the lack of a European otulook for Ukraine. They hope that this round of protests does not turn into an outbreak of ultra-nationalism, anti-Semitic rioting and all-out chaos.