Hundreds of Jewish pilgrims stuck on Belarus-Ukraine border

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — About 700 Jewish pilgrims were stuck on Belarus' border Tuesday 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 various checkpoints in hopes of crossing over and reaching the city of Uman.

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. Deineko reported that he had deployed additional forces to protect the border and arranged for aircraft and drones to help patrol it.

As the crowds of pilgrims converged on the border, cargo traffic through the section where they were gathering was halted, causing a backup of a few hundred trucks.

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