Ukraine's chief rabbi sounds alarm over Jewish tycoon's effigy

Kolomoisky returned to Ukraine earlier this year (AFP Photo/VLADYSLAV MUSIENKO)

Kiev (AFP) - Ukraine's chief rabbi urged authorities Friday to quickly find and punish men who left a red-paint splattered effigy of Jewish tycoon Igor Kolomoisky on the steps of Kiev's main synagogue.

Earlier this week, several men wearing fatigues and face masks left the life-size effigy of Kolomoisky, a powerful oligarch with links to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Video footage published by Ukraine's chief rabbi, Moshe Reuvan Azman, on Facebook shows the young men throwing Nazi salutes and pouring red paint on the effigy.

Azman said the men had imitated Kolomoisky's murder, calling the stunt an "extremely dangerous incident" that had taken place during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

He said police had opened a criminal case but stressed that the men should be found quickly.

"I demand that law enforcement agencies find and prosecute those who participated in and ordered this anti-Semitic provocation as soon as possible," he said in a statement on Facebook.

On Wednesday, the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, denounced the incident, saying: "Ukraine has to do more to fight anti-Semitism, if not, violence will spread from effigies to human beings."

Kolomoisky is president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine.

He returned to Ukraine earlier this year after actor and comedian Zelensky, who is also of Jewish origin, won a landslide victory in an April presidential election.

Kolomoisky has been mired in a legal battle with Ukrainian authorities over control of the country's largest lender, PrivatBank.

Zelensky's election as president was hailed as a sign of tolerance in a country with a long history of anti-Semitism.

But anti-Semitic acts still take place in the ex-Soviet country seen by some of having a lax attitude towards neo-Nazi groups.