KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — About 700 Jewish pilgrims were stuck Tuesday on the Belarus border due to coroavirus restrictions that barred them from entering Ukraine.
Ukrainian Border Guard chief Serhiy Deineko said at least 690 ultra-Orthodox Jews were gathering at the border in Belarus and more than 3,000 were expected at checkpoints in hopes of crossing over and reaching the city of Uman in Ukraine.
The grave of an important Hasidic rabbi who died in 1810, Nachman of Breslov, is located in Uman. Thousands of pilgrims visit the city each September for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. However, Ukraine closed its borders in late August amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.
Belarus, which shares a long border with Ukraine, has not shut its borders to travelers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed the situation with the border guard chief, who said he had deployed additional forces to protect the border and arranged for aircraft and drones to help patrol it.
A few hundred cargo trucks backed up due to the chaos at the border.
Late Tuesday, the Belarusian government said it was offering to help Ukraine set up a “green corridor” for the pilgrims to get to Uman and back to Belarus.
President Alexander Lukashenko’s spokeswoman, Natalia Eismont, said Belarus was ready to provide buses to drive the pilgrims to Uman and back and make all the necessary precautions to prevent a spike in new infections.
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