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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 14:50 GMT
Russian MPs' letter angers Israel
Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Moscow

Vandalised Jewish cemetery in St Petersburg
Acts of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries are on the rise in Russia
The Israeli embassy in Moscow has called on the Russian authorities to respond toughly to all acts of anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

It follows a letter signed by members of the Russian parliament calling on the authorities to close down Jewish organisations across Russia.

The letter - since withdrawn - accused Jewish groups of fomenting ethnic hatred and fuelling anti-Semitism.

It was published by the Rus Pravoslavnaya nationalist newspaper.

The newspaper claims that the letter was signed by 500 academics and intellectuals and by 19 members of Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma.

It called for Jewish organisations to be investigated and closed down, condemning Judaism as anti-Christian, even linking the religion to ritual murder.

'Nazi' arguments

A short time ago, the statement was withdrawn without explanation.

Earlier there was an angry response from Israel's embassy in Moscow, which described it as a classical example of anti-Semitism.

In a statement the embassy said the letter contained the same arguments used by the Nazis to justify the mass extermination of Jews in World War II.

It called on the Russian authorities to respond toughly to all manifestations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

In the past, Jewish organisations in Russia have praised President Vladimir Putin for maintaining good relations with the Jewish community.

But anti-Semitism has a long history in Russia and there has been growing concern at a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the capital.

Russia's chief rabbi Berl Lazar is due to accompany President Putin to Auschwitz on Wednesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp by Soviet troops.

Russian Jews will be hoping Mr Putin uses the occasion to issue a strong and public condemnation of anti-Semitism.


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