BY rafael m. manueco
As every year, tens of thousands of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims travel in autumn to the Ukrainian city of Uman, located 209 kilometers south of Kiev, to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). They go there to visit the tomb of their spiritual leader, Rabbi Najmán de Breslau (1772-1810), founder of the branch of the Hasidics, one of the most orthodox within Judaism.
However, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of them have been blocked on the border between Belarus and Ukraine, in no man’s land, in a neutral zone, because the Ukrainian authorities have blocked their way. The celebrations should start tomorrow Friday and continue until Sunday.
Since Tuesday, several thousand ultra-Orthodox Jews have been concentrated at the New Yarilovichy border crossing with the illusion that at some point they will be allowed to pass into Ukraine, but they are not succeeding because the Ukrainian government gave order at the end of August to prevent foreigners from entering the country due to the worsening epidemiological situation.
The Ukrainian Interior Minister, Arsen Avákov, announced through a statement that “these restrictive measures are adopted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.” In similar terms, the office of the Ukrainian Presidency was expressed, where they stressed that “Ukraine has been forced – since August 29 – to close its border to foreigners because of a significant increase in infections.”
Avákov assured that the pilgrims are being treated in Nóvie Yarilovichi with “water, food and medicine.” In his words, “the restrictions make it impossible to hold mass events, including those of a religious nature.” Last year, more than 30,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews came to Umán from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and France.
Ukrainian border guards maintain that a large group of pilgrims arrived at the border on Monday afternoon and, learning that they would not be able to enter Ukraine, some tried to do so illegally. Later, according to official sources, they occupied the road and blocked the passage of vehicles in the direction of Belarus. Apparently, arrests were made.
The head of the Ukrainian Border Service, Sergei Deineko, who was yesterday at the border and tried unsuccessfully to convince those gathered to give up their idea of moving to Umán, complained that they do not observe social distancing and many do not even carry mask. According to his calculations, there were more than 3,000 Hasidics yesterday at the Novie Yarilovichi border control.
“I do not know who has given them promises that they could pass, but there is a decree that prevents access to all foreigners and we have to carry out the orders,” Deineko launched into the crowd, according to the Ukrainian agency Unian. But despite the precarious conditions they suffer, in the midst of the rain and with already cold temperatures at night, none have turned back. They hope to be allowed to travel to Umán. The Belarusian Red Cross handed out blankets, food, water and tents to families with children on Tuesday evening.
Last month, the mayor of Umán, Olexánder Tsebri, asked the country’s president, Volodímir Zelenski, to ban this year the pilgrimage of ultra-Orthodox Jews because of the pandemic. The authorities of the country and also those of Israel released a joint statement urging them to refrain from visiting Umán. These pilgrims began traveling to the tomb of Rabbi Najman of Breslau as early as August. Those who managed to arrive before the border closings are already in Umán, where the Police have organized an imposing security device.
The Ukrainian Presidency largely blames Belarus for the current situation. In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, the fact that the pilgrims “arrived from Israel mostly believing false rumors that the Ukrainian border with Belarus was open” is deplored. “We ask the Belarusian authorities to stop exacerbating tensions,” emphasizes the official note. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has warned that, for health reasons, the border will remain closed until at least September 28.
Infections by covid-19 are increasing in Ukraine. In the last day, 2,958 new positive cases and 76 deaths were detected. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 162,660 people have been infected in Ukraine and a total of 3,340 died. Until August 29, the only way to reach Uman by land was through Belarus, since both the European Union and Russia have their borders closed with Ukraine. Belarus is also the only country in the area that maintains its air connections with much of the world, due to the skepticism of its president, Alexander Lukashenko, in relation to Covid-19.
More than 10,000 frauds in the application for aid due to the covid-19 epidemic
BY JUAN CARLOS BARRENA
German prosecutors have opened more than 10,000 procedures for fraud in the application of immediate financial aid and other scams to face the economic consequences of the coronavirus epidemic by companies and self-employed workers. This is clear from a survey carried out in the ministries of Justice and the public prosecutor’s offices of the 16 German federal states and published today by the German Newsroom Network. The damages caused by these frauds have not yet been quantified but are presumed to amount to several hundred million euros. “It is generally about grant application fraud that requires in-depth case-by-case investigations and that cannot be standardized as unified processes,” says Sven Rebehn, manager of the German Federation of Judges, who predicts a long and arduous process until all cases are resolved.
Vienna, Budapest and Amsterdam have joined the European capitals and large cities that have been declared risk regions by Germany due to the coronavirus epidemic and to which the Berlin authorities advise against the population to travel unless it is for reasons of Force Majeure. Other European Union capitals such as Madrid and Paris were already on the black list of countries and regions with a high risk of contagion with the Sars-Covid-2 virus, which is prepared and permanently updated by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), responsible for coordinating fight against the pandemic in Germany. The German Foreign Ministry stressed last night that it “warns of any unnecessary or tourist travel to the federal state of Vienna due to high infection rates.” The epidemic is hitting the Austrian capital hard, which relies heavily on tourism. The historic Sacher hotels in Vienna and Salzburg have so far been forced to lay off 140 employees. “The situation couldn’t be more dramatic,” said Matthias Winkler, director of the Sacher group, whose traditional five-star establishment in Vienna was founded in the 19th century and gives its name to a well-known cake.
The director of the department of virology at the University of Bonn, Professor Hendrik Streeck, has lowered expectations for the prompt availability of one or more vaccines to effectively tackle the Covid-19 epidemic. “It is not possible to predict” when a vaccine will be available, says the specialist in statements published today by the German newspaper Handelsblatt, in which he comments that he considers the debates on this issue “not serious.” Streeck emphasizes that “although a vaccine can be created relatively quickly, you cannot predict quickly whether it will be effective or not.” He stresses that the different phases of testing a new vaccine are “always full of surprises.” It also warns against all “scaremongering” and manipulation of public opinion by the pandemic, since it is currently “comparatively well managed in Germany” and stresses that it will not be necessary to “completely paralyze the country” again.
Johnson Will Try To Curb “Nationalist Priorities” In Pandemic
BY iñigo gurruchaga
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson already advanced in 2018 that he found Donald Trump’s way of negotiating interesting, creating chaos and disputes and then obtaining a good result. He has also attracted, like the president of the United States, popular sections of society that his party did not reach. The promises and commitments of both do not have the solidity of granite. But Johnson is not Trump.
Asked this Wednesday in Parliament by the conservative deputy, Tom Tugendhat, if he will promote the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) during the British presidency, in 2021, of the Group of Seven (United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Italy), recalled that London already hosted in January the international summit that raised 7.5 billion for vaccine research and vaccination programs, which could save between 7 and 8 million lives in poor countries, according to the organizers.
And Johnson added: «One of the things that the UK will do at the G7 is to unite the whole world around the covid, because it has been a disaster, … The fights in airports to stay with protective equipment, the borders that are they raised all over the world, the seizure of drug shipments,… We have seen the return of national, nationalist priorities, in a depressing way for those who believe in globalism and internationalism. Organizations like the World Health Organization have enormous value to the world.