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Ukraine police probe senior officer's request for Jews' personal info

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A police department in Ukraine has been embroiled in an anti-Semitism scandal after requesting the names and personal details of local Jewish community members. Ukraine's National Police said this week that an internal investigation had been launched following the revelation that a high-ranking police official sought the names, addresses and contact details for members of the Orthodox Jewish community and Jewish students in the western town of Kolomyya.

A letter to the leader of the Orthodox community, signed by regional police official Myhaylo Bank, asked for the personal details citing investigations by the department of strategic investigation into "ethnic" and "transnational crime groups."

The letter was sent in February but only surfaced online in May.

Yakov Zalishchiker, the community leader who received the letter, told CBS News in a telephone interview that he declined to provide the information sought by the police. He said when he informed the head of Kyiv's Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, about the letter, Dolinsky thought it was a joke.

When he provided Dolinsky a copy of the letter, Dolinsky posted it on social media and it quickly drew a wave of outrage and cries of police anti-Semitism.

"Interesting that in 1941 the Nazi and Ukrainian Auxiliary Police demanded [the community] to provide the lists of all Jews," Dolinsky wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday.

According to some estimates, as many as 1.5 million Jews were killed on Ukrainian soil by Nazi forces during World War II.

A man kneels in front of the Minorah Monument at the Babyn Yar (Babi Yar) Holocaust Memorial in Kyiv, in a September 29, 2019 file photo taken during a mourning ceremony marking the 78th anniversary of the beginning of the mass execution of Jews in September 1941. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty

"Some of the elderly community members felt anxious" when they learned about the letter from the police, Zalishchiker told CBS News.

After an intervention by Israel's Ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, the head of Ukraine's national police force announced an investigation into the matter.

"I want to assure the community: We will not allow any manifestations of persecution of citizens on national or other grounds," Igor Klimenko, chief of the National Police, was quoted as saying.

Zalishchiker said he also received an apology from the police, and while he suspects "judicial illiteracy" was behind the request for Jewish citizens' personal details, its origins remain unclear with the police investigation ongoing.

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