In an extensive interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Insider, Anatoliy Matios, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor, espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in which he implied that Jews want to drown ethnic Slavs in blood.
Referring to Alexander Parvus, a Belarussian-born Marxist theoretician who was active in Germany’s Social Democratic Party in the late 19th century, and who also happened to be Jewish, Matios claimed that Jews can be found financing all great conflicts.
“In each war, there is always a Parvus, who brought Lenin money for a revolution which flooded Slavs with blood for decades. Parvus was also Jewish. In this case, they want to do the same to Ukraine,” Matios told the Insider.
The interview touched on a wide variety of topics, including politics in Ukraine and an ongoing investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who recently staged his own death with the assistance of Ukraine’s security forces. But it was also a sharp reminder of the anti-Semitism and racism that persist in Ukraine’s public discourse.
According a report published annually by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine doubled in 2017. The report was criticized by some members of Ukraine’s Jewish community, who claimed that the research methods used to draft the list were not sufficiently rigorous. Some critics also said that the incidents were exaggerated by people linked to Russia, in order to promote the Kremlin-backed narrative that the Ukrainian government in Kien was not only nationalist, but above all racist and fascist.
Nevertheless, a recent report published by the think tank Freedom House found that far-right extremists are becoming more active in the country. Last month, a Holocaust memorial and a famous rabbi's tomb were attacked and supporters of far-right groups marched across the country spraypainting swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
The comments by Matios come at a time when Ukraine is also seeing a wave of violence against the country’s Roma minority. A vicious attack on June 23 left one Roma man dead. The attack was reportedly the sixth attack on a Roma settlement in Ukraine over the past two months. Police arrested several suspects who are believed to have links to far-right groups.
Experts say it is important that Ukraine’s officials take an active role in combating racism and anti-Semitism.
“In general, the Ukrainian government acts to defend minorities from physical attack. Yet there is also considerable ignorance and racism among some in society and in the state,” Adrian Karatnycky, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who focuses on Ukraine and Eastern Europe, told Newsweek. “The proliferation of vigilantism which extends well beyond the far right is a problem that needs to be tackled with resolve. Only Ukraine's democratically accountable state institutions can engage in enforcing the law. And violations must be firmly punished.”
Matios has been Ukraine's chief military prosecutor since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine began an armed conflict in the country. Since taking up that role, he has called for all Ukranians to be armed for self protection and called attention to the high rate of suicide among Ukrainian service members fighting separatists in the country's Donbas region.