Ukraine accused Belarus of causing tensions against hundreds of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims stranded on its border.
The Ukrainian Presidential Palace says Belarus spreads false hopes that pilgrims can cross. Belarus hopes to open a corridor for them.
Pilgrims are trying to travel to the town of Uman on Rosh Hashanah to pay tribute to the tomb of the founder of the Hasidic movement.
Ukraine has closed its borders to foreigners to limit Covid-19.
Restrictions apply from August 28 to September 28.
Safety guidelines issued on Jewish holidays
- Why it might be a “lonely time” for Jewish families
After Ukraine joined the European Union and refused to recognize the re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko last month, relations between Ukraine and Belarus have deteriorated.
At the same time, Israel is the first country to put a second nationwide lockdown on Covid-19-which will begin on Friday after a surge in infections.
How did the situation arise?
Thousands of pilgrims each year, many of them from Israel, travel to Uman on Rosh Hashanah, which takes place from September 18 to 20 in 2020. They visited the tomb of Rabbi Nahman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
Although both the Ukrainian and Israeli governments call for pilgrims to make pilgrimages, pilgrims are not allowed to go this year due to concerns about the coronavirus.
According to reports, thousands of people are already in Uman.
But others who travel mainly through Minsk have been stopped by Ukrainian guards at the Belarus-Ukraine border. These numbers vary, but according to some estimates, the number exceeds 2,000 at various boundary points.
What do Ukraine and Belarus say?
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “We call on the Belarusian authorities to stop causing further tensions on the border with our country and not to make false encouraging announcements to pilgrims. This may make them feel that Ukraine’s borders may still be open to foreigners.”
The head of the Ukrainian Border Forces, Sergiy Deyneko, said that more than 3,000 pilgrims will soon go to the borders of Chernigov, Zhytomyr and Wolin regions.
Mr. Lukashenko’s office accused Ukraine of “closing the border” and stranded hundreds of people.
He said Tuesday that there should be a “green corridor” so that pilgrims can take a bus to Uman and be transported back to Belarus.
Ukrainian authorities say that water and kosher food are being supplied, but the Belarusian Red Cross says that the pilgrims do not have “sufficient resources to ensure their basic needs”.
What are the pilgrims saying?
Haim Weitshandler was stuck at the border. He told AFP that it was a “humanitarian disaster” and that “sick and hungry people” spent several days in the rain and cold. .
The 40-year-old said: “We are trapped here without money, no roof, no food or drink.”
The pilgrims rested on the side of the road and were blocked by border guards.
Some people set up makeshift tents, while others slept on luggage in front of the truck.