A car belonging to a Ukrainian immigrant in Bat Yam was found defaced with swastikas and the logo of the Ukrainian Azov battalion Tuesday evening.
"I was in shock when I found it," said Alexey Ostapenko, who moved to Israel from Kiev sixteen years ago, blaming what he called "pro-Russian separatists" and "Putin supporters"for the act. Ostapenko is involved with efforts to ship aid to Ukraine and believes that the presence of the logo of Azov, a pro-government militia with ties to neo-Nazis, indicates that the attack was nationalistically motivated.
"Why relate me to that," he asked. We try not to help azov. It's a shock. It's impossible to see this in Israel. This is the type of thing that happened in Warsaw in history. For half a day I couldn’t return to being myself."
Russia has repeatedly accused the Ukrainian government of being Nazis, a charge denied by Kiev and by local Jewish leaders. Despite Azov's neo-Nazi ties, Ukrainian Jews have expressed greater concern over Russia's involvement in their country than about anti-Semitism, stating that separatists are a bigger priority than the Jews even for the most extreme racists.
While both pro-Ukrainian and Pro-Russian groups are operating in Israel, both protesting in favor of their chosen side and sending medical supplies and clothes to both sides in the war, Tuesday's incident appears to be the first time that the war has spilled over into Israel in a criminal way.
By SAM SOKOL