Crimea’s only rabbi sent his wife and children to Israel on Monday as Russian forces issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian soldiers to surrender or face an attack.
Rabbi Michael Kapustin took the decision after his synagogue was attacked on Thursday night, with anti-Semitic graffiti and far-right symbols scrawled over the wall and doors (pictured, below right). However, the Reform rabbi said the attack was likely not carried out by a member of a far-right party, as appeared, since the emblems were “botched”.
After taking the decision to get his family out, Kapustin cancelled Saturday morning prayers, as tensions on the peninsula escalated. He told his congregation to stay at home and keep out of harm’s way as Russia issued its ultimatum.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have effectively taken control of Crimea already, after a pro-Russian protest group stormed council buildings following the overthrow of corrupt Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich last week.
“The situation is dangerous, a lot of things might happen,” said Kapustin. “I am a patriot of this country and I believe what is happening is an aggression on the part of Russia.”
He said he would stay in Crimea during the next few days, despite the threat of a Russian attack if Ukrainian soldiers do not disband.
“I am the only rabbi left in the Crimea and I look after anything Jewish,” he said. “I’m talking about thousands of people.”