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Two thousand ultra-Orthodox Jews are being blocked by armed guards from entering Ukraine for an annual pilgrimage to a rabbi’s grave, creating a makeshift camp at the country’s border with Belarus.

The men ignored warnings by the Ukrainian authorities not to travel after its borders closed at the end of last month in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.

On Thursday, an official with Ukraine’s interior ministry official repeated that the pilgrims would not be allowed to cross the border. “Ukraine has shut its borders to foreigners, and no exclusions will be made for the Hasidic [ultra-Orthodox] pilgrims,” said Mykhailo Apostol. “It’s getting colder and we suggest that they… go home.”

The Israeli higher education minister, Ze’ev Elkin, appealed to the men to leave the border.

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