17 September 2020, 10:39
Minsk accuses Kiev of empty rhetoric, urges it to respect rights of Hasidic pilgrims
Minsk, September 17, Interfax - Minsk has urged the Ukrainian authorities to demonstrate respect toward the rights of worshippers and start a dialogue with Hasidic pilgrims seeking to cross the Belarusian-Ukrainian border on their way to the Ukrainian city of Uman.
"We are urging the Ukrainian authorities to respect fundamental human rights, the rights of worshippers, and generally recognized democratic norms and abide by the principles of humanism," Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said.
"They [Ukrainian authorities] should come down to earth and simply start a dialogue with these people, who are not demanding anything extraordinary, but only respect for their core rights," Glaz said, adding that Belarus will continue keeping its spotlight on this situation.
It is necessary to "stop these long discussions on this problem," he said.
"There is an issue which should and can be solved. More than 1,000 people are currently stranded there. They have to sleep outside. This is absolutely inhuman. And this is what is now important rather than empty rhetoric and attempts of the Ukrainian authorities to shoulder their responsibility for their unwillingness to look for a way out of this situation onto someone else," he said.
Pilgrims from other countries have already arrived in Uman, "and a certain VIP-quota set by the Ukrainian side has already been used up," Glaz said.
"On what grounds is this group [of Hasidic pilgrims currently on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border] being discriminated against?," he said.
"These are people who are transiting Belarusian territory en route to Ukraine. Excuse me, we cannot leave them out in the cold in front of the closed Ukrainian border," he said.
Minsk earlier informed Israel's relevant authorities and Jewish religious organizations that pilgrims cannot enter Ukraine from Belarus due to restrictive measures imposed by Ukraine, he said.
"However, pilgrims keep arriving in our country. All forces, including the State Border Committee, the Interior Ministry, and other organizations concerned, are being used to help them," Glaz said.
Additionally, Belarus will be ready to help the pilgrims leave its territory if Ukraine cannot open its border, he said.
As reported, hundreds of Hasidic pilgrims wishing to get to Ukraine's Uman city to celebrate Rosh Hashanah have gathered near the Novi Yarylovychi - Novaya Guta checkpoint.
Belarusian border guards let the pilgrims out of the country, but they were not allowed to enter the territory of Ukraine due to the restrictions on foreign citizens and stateless persons' entry into the country imposed in order to counter the coronavirus spread.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ordered that assistance be extended to the Hasidic pilgrims stranded on the border with Ukraine.
There are currently more than 2,500 Hasidic pilgrims in Belarus, including 1,200 in areas on the border with Ukraine.