(Reuters) - The mayor of Lviv on Sunday brushed off media allegations
of racism in Ukraine and dismissed a call by a Jewish human rights
group to avoid some restaurants in the city on the grounds they are
Lviv is one of four Ukrainian cities to host matches. In the run-up to the tournament,
German and British media reports spoke of widespread racism in the
country and mentioned supporters of local soccer team Karpaty Lviv,
who have been known to brandish Nazi flags at games.
Mayor Andriy Sadovyi bristled when asked about the
reports and a call from international Jewish human rights organisation
the Simon Wiesenthal Center for fans to boycott two restaurants.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry: these restaurants
are an attraction but there was never any anti-Semitism and there
won't be," he told a news conference.
"Lviv is an absolutely tolerant city ...
(with) people of different nationalities who respect each other."
Lviv had a significant Jewish population before World
War Two but it was almost totally wiped out by the Nazis.
Nationalist Ukrainian groups, some of whom also took
part in anti-Jewish operations, are extremely popular in the Lviv
region in Western Ukraine because they also mounted a strong anti-Soviet
One of the restaurants is a replica of a hideout used
by followers of nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.
The other offers diners black hats with artificial
sidelocks to make them look like religious Jews. There are no prices
on the menu and customers are expected to haggle, something the Wiesenthal
Center said was "a notorious anti-Semitic stereotype still prevalent in Eastern Europe".
Sadovyi said he was unaware of any racist problems
in Lviv and noted that some of the media organisations reporting
on supposed tensions in Ukraine were British.
He said he had been shocked by the London riots last
year and had had no idea there were racist tensions in the city.
"They had riots in the city and you probably
heard about that. I can't even imagine such a thing in Lviv. Maybe
some people don't like it, but Lviv is a city open to the world," he said.