Russian strike stirs symbolism at Kyiv Holocaust site
published : 2 Mar 2022 at 18:45
KYIV: Eighty years after the ravine at Babi Yar served as the mass grave of 30,000 Jews murdered by Ukraine's Nazi occupiers, five more corpses lay on the ground Wednesday covered in dust and fine layer of snow.
A father, a mother and their teenage son and daughter were killed as they left a store with provisions before Kyiv's nightly curfew.
A fifth body was that of a television journalist, judging by the press card that police found on him and shown to AFP, after Tuesday's Russian attack on the capital's television mast.
State broadcasting resumed with a back-up antenna shortly after the missile damaged but failed to topple the tower.
The symbolism of a strike beside Holocaust graves made an impact far beyond the city.
First the tower itself, pumping out news from Ukraine's government as it tries to rally citizens against the Russian invasion.
"This tower is our symbol of truth, a free media and real news. It is our reality that they're attacking," Volodymyr Rudenko, a 50-year-old lawyer and defence volunteer at the scene.
The smashed store's burglar alarm was still ringing pointlessly and soldiers struggled with the grey plastic sheeting as they began to move the corpses that no-one dared touch the night before.
But the site of the tower, now strewn with twisted debris, is also another symbol.
In 1941, Kyiv's World War II German occupiers shot dead 33,000 Jewish prisoners at Babi Yar. A memorial to the massacre lies a short distance from the tower, so far untouched.
Sounds are muffled by the falling snow, but an air raid siren cuts through the park and a group of sculptures dedicated to the victims, including of an immense Menorah.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, himself Jewish, reacted with outrage to the strike.
In a video address he complained that under Ukraine's former Soviet rule, authorities built the TV tower and a sports complex on a "special part of Europe, a place of prayer, a place of remembrance".
"Outbuildings. They built a park there. To erase the true history of Babi Yar... This is beyond humanity," he declared.
"Such a missile strike shows that for many people in Russia our Kyiv is completely foreign. They know nothing about our capital. About our history," he said.
"But they have an order to erase our history. Erase our country. Erase us all."
Ukraine's chief rabbi, Moshe Asman told AFP that the Russian strike was "a terrible war crime".
"It's symbolic that the Russian army attacked the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv," he said, as Ukraine's second-city came in for a much harder bombardment than Kyiv, partly encircled but intact.
"I can't believe what I see," he said. "It's so symbolic a thing, one month ago on this same exact place, I said: 'A war is easy to start but very hard to end.' It's terrible."