US/World News

Ukrainian war hero and lawmaker slurs Jews

(JTA) – A Ukrainian lawmaker and war hero used a word usually translated as “kikes” in complaining that Jews wield excessive power in her country.

Nadiya Savchenko, a fighter jet pilot who was elected to parliament in 2014 while she was still being held as a prisoner of Russia, made the statements on Saturday during a televised interview for the 112 station and  insisted they were not indicative of antisemitic bias.

Savchenko was asked to address criticism that in a television interview earlier this month, she failed to condemn the antisemitic statements of a caller with whom she seemed to agree.

During the 112 interview on Saturday, which was conducted in Ukrainian, Savchenko said, “I have nothing against Jews. I do not like ‘kikes.’” She later said Jews possess “80 percent of the power when they only account for 2 percent of the population.”

In expressing neutrality to Jews, she used the word “evreiv,” which speakers both of Ukrainian and Russian is a neutral designation. But later she used the term “zhidiv,” which in Russian is a pejorative for Jews, akin to “kike” in English.

Some Ukrainians claim the word “zhid” is the standard designation for a Jew in their language, though leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community insist is offensive to Jews in both languages.

During the earlier interview on March 21 for OneNews, Savchenko agreed in principle with a caller who inveighed against a “Jewish takeover of Ukraine.” She replied: “Indeed, part of the ruling establishment in Ukraine does not possess distinctly Ukrainian blood and we need to talk about it and act.”

Russia arrested and tried Savchenko for her role as a Ukrainian soldier in fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in 2014 near the Ukrainian border city of Donetsk. Russian judges said she was responsible for the slaying of two journalists. She was released in a prisoner exchange in 2016. Her lead defense lawyer in Russia during the trial was the human rights attorney Mark Feigin, who is Jewish. Feigin said he had been detained and harassed repeatedly by authorities for defending Savchenko.

CAP: Nadiya Savchenko

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