Jewish residents in a small Ukrainian town are expressing shock and dismay after a neo-Nazi politician became their new mayor.
Artem Semenikhin, of the neo-Nazi party Svobada, was recently elected mayor of the small city of Konotop and citizens are concerned about his recent violent behavior.
“The reaction of [the] community is shock. People are shocked it could happen in [a] city and nobody believed it could happen here but it happened somehow,” community activist Igor Nechayev told The Jerusalem Post by phone Monday.
Residents say Semenikhin drives around the city with a decal that has the numbers “14/88,” which is reference to the phrases “we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and “Heil Hitler.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, he replaced the portrait in his office of the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko, with a picture of WWII Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.
Semenikhin was elected to office only two months ago and refused to fly the official city flag during council meetings because he objected to the Star of David featured on it (it should be noted that the flag also depicts a Muslim crescent and Christian cross).
“It is a sad, but a reality when anti-Semites are being elected in local governing bodies, even mayors promoting hate and intolerance. Konotop is a clear case,” Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee told the Jerusalem Post.
Since Semenikhin was elected, relations between Jews and non-Jews in the city have been largely peaceful — for the most part, with the occasional anti-Semitic graffiti on buildings and various walls around the city.
Anti-Semitism researcher, Vyacheslav Likhachev, said that “Ukrainians are afraid of the Russian threat, not the threat of national radicalism,” and that “Semenikhin has successfully created himself an image of a defender of Ukrainian independence, and voters were able to support him, not paying attention to the radicalism of his views.”
Likhachev said that Ukraine cannot forbid any right-wing views or politicians from entering elections, and they cannot be removed from an elected position even if they have an extremist outlook.
Feature image via oriental review.