Jewish pilgrims are stuck on the border with Ukraine

Dhe Ukraine fears a rush of up to 4,000 Jewish pilgrims who want to celebrate the New Year’s festival Rosh Hashanah in the Ukrainian city of Uman as they do every year, but are not allowed to enter legally due to the corona pandemic. About 800 Hasidic pilgrims have been stuck north of Chernihiv in the no man’s land on the border between Belarus and Ukraine since Tuesday night. This emerges from reports distributed by the Ukrainian border guards.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

One of the videos shows how the head of the border guard, General Serhiy Dejneko, explains to representatives of the pilgrims that it has long been known that citizens of other countries have not been allowed to enter since August 28th. In the meantime, pilgrims gathered in front of a chain of Ukrainian border officials, some singing and praying, while dozens of trucks that wanted to cross the border were jammed behind the chain. Kiev appealed to the Belarusian border guards not to let other travelers through.

During the course of Tuesday, a Belarusian spokesman announced that the pilgrims who were in no man’s land would be allowed back into Belarus. Dejneko expected several flights to the Belarusian capital Minsk on Tuesday and several thousand more pilgrims who wanted to travel around 700 kilometers to their destination in Ukraine through various border crossings by land.

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The governments of Israel and Ukraine – new corona record numbers have been reported from both countries for days – had jointly appealed weeks ago not to go to Uman this year. There is the grave of the tzaddik Nachman von Brazlaw (1772 to 1810), a rabbi revered by Hasidic Jews. The festival of Rosh Hashanah begins on Friday. Israel has announced that it will send its own police officers to Uman.

In the past few days, pilgrims who had already arrived at the grave in Uman tore down a cordon that had been erected because of the corona pandemic; two of those involved were expelled from Ukraine. Because it is apparently expected that pilgrims will continue to arrive, medical controls are to apply on the streets around Uman and strict regulations for crowds in the city itself.

In the past seven days, between 2,400 and 3,200 new infections per day were counted in Ukraine. That is almost four times more infections per head of the population than in Germany. The mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, said on Monday there was the “highest number of fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic” in the capital of three million people, namely eleven deaths in one day. A corona hotspot is the sparsely populated area around the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil, with around 300 new cases every day.

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