Ukraine ‘tense’ as Jewish mother and daughter die in explosion

Ukraine ‘tense’ as Jewish mother and daughter die in explosion

Flowers left at Schifol Airport in The Netherlands, home of 193 victims of Flight MH-17

British charities working in Ukraine this week said the situation in the country remained “tense” after a Jewish mother and daughter were killed in an explosion in the eastern city of Luhansk and an Israeli died on Flight MH-17.

Their warning comes as pressure mounts on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for pro-Russian rebels, who are widely assumed to have downed the Malaysian civilian aircraft with a surface-to-air missile.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the 298 passengers tragically killed in last week’s plane crash and the Jewish family and others killed in Luhansk,” said World Jewish Relief (WJR) Campaign Manager Richard Verber.

“As the situation remains tense, we are increasing our work across Ukraine, supporting those most in need.”

Separatists in east Ukraine were this week being accused of hampering crash site investigators, after the Malaysia Airlines flight came down over rebel-held territory.

Of those killed, 193 were Dutch nationals, alongside victims from Israel, Britain, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Germany, Belgium, Indonesia and the Philippines.

International outrage deepened on Monday when Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk described how the pro-Russian rebels had loaded 251 bodies onto a train, which they then prevented from leaving.

Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, blasted the probe into Thursday’s crash, describing it as “absolutely shambolic,” adding that the aftermath was being treated “more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation”.

Meanwhile, in Luhansk, Svetlana Sitnikov, 57, and her daughter Anna, 31, were caught up in fighting between government forces and rebels as they headed out to go shopping.

Zelig Brez, a local Jewish community leader, praised the women as being “among the most active members of the community”. Anna’s 4-year-old son, Vadim, was due to be with them, he said, but the boy had been taken by his grandfather at the last minute.

Other aid agencies, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, said they had rehoused hundreds of families flee battle zones in the industrial east, where experts estimate that there are now 80,000 people displaced from the fighting.