By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Yitzchok Meyer and Leah Lipszyc, co-directors of Chabad Lubavitch of Crimea in Ukraine, have left the region as masked gunmen taking over key buildings.
Crimea is an autonomous republic of Ukraine with an ethnic Russian majority. It’s the last large bastion of opposition to Ukraine’s new political leadership after President Viktor Yanukovych‘s ouster.
Government administration buildings in Simferopol remained under siege Friday, a day after armed men stormed in and planted Russia’s flag atop the parliament building, CNN reported.
The gunmen, whom Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called part of an “armed invasion” by Russian forces, appeared around the airport without identifying themselves.
A family member told COLlive that Rabbi Lipszyc, who was in Moscow this week, changed his flight to land in Donetsk. Mrs. Lipszyc boarded a train from Simferopol to Donetsk on Thursday.
“As American citizens and noticeably Jewish, it isn’t safe for them there,” the person said. “Their house is 3 blocks away from the city square and you need to cross it to get to the shul.”
To avoid areas of unrest, members of the Jewish community brought the Torah scrolls and prayer books to the home of the Lipszycs and were going to stay there for Shabbos.
COLlive was told that until matters clear up, Rabbi and Mrs. Lipszyc plan to travel to the United States, from which they will be sending financial assistance to the community.
“They are also working on getting a basic food supply for their community. The cost for these basic necessities is prohibitive at this time of unease,” the family member said.
Journalist Frida Ghitis told CNN: “The situation is serious and the risks are enormous. Crimea is the flashpoint. If Ukraine unravels, it will begin there, in the small peninsula that has played an outsize role throughout history. If Russia decides to launch a military intervention, its justification and its target will be the Crimea.”
The Shluchim requested to say Tehillim on behalf of their community. To donate in their time of need, click here