About 1,000 Jewish Hasidic pilgrims stuck on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border on Wednesday and are not allowed into Ukraine because Kiev has closed the border to foreigners since the end of August due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Pilgrims come from Israel and other countries. They want to visit the grave of Rabbi Nahman, the founder of the Breslav Hashid movement, in the city of Uman, in central Ukraine, on the Jewish New Year.
As Belarusian border guards have allowed Hasid to leave the country but are not allowed into Ukraine, many pilgrims are in the neutral zone between Belarus and Ukraine. Some returned to Belarus.
“Due to the current situation, it is not possible to allow an additional number of Jewish Hasidians into Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Yevheni Yenin told Ukraine 24.
Pilgrims will be provided with food and necessary medicines, he added.
“Since yesterday there has been no provocation, there has been no tense situation,” said Ukrainian Border Guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko.
Both Ukraine and Israel are trying to prevent a further increase in the number of infections. Ukraine has closed the border to foreigners until the end of September, but Israel is introducing a three-week quarantine regime from Friday.
Most Hasidic pilgrims – about 1,000 – gathered in front of the Novi Jarilovich checkpoint in the Chernivtsi region.
The Ukrainian border guard reports that a gathering of foreigners on Tuesday evening was also seen opposite the Dolsk checkpoint in the Volyn region.
The head of the Ukrainian border guard Serhiy Deneko arrived there and explained that due to the Covid-19 crisis, the border has been closed to foreigners.
“You were aware of such decisions three weeks ago,” the official said, addressing people at the border.
On Tuesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior addressed Belarus, urging it not to allow people who are denied entry to Ukraine and who do not fall into any of the exceptional categories to cross the border.
Ukrainian border guards predict that more than 3,000 Hasidic pilgrims will arrive at the border from Belarus.
As the Deputy Minister of the Interior of Ukraine Anton Heraščenko explained, the Hasidic pilgrims have been deceived by giving false information about the possibilities of entering Ukraine.
“They were actually deceived and deceived in Belarus. We have no reason to let these people into Ukraine,” the deputy minister told Ukraine 24 on Wednesday.
Rabbi Nahman breathed new life into the Hasidism branch of Orthodox Judaism 200 years ago, and since then Uman has become a permanent place of Hasidic pilgrimage.
In order to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, Ukraine closed the borders to foreign nationals from 26 August to 28 September, with a few exceptions.
Kiev explains that such a ban has also been supported by Israel, from which many pilgrims come.