LONDON (Apr. 27)
A 21-year-old Jewish student at Riga University in Latvia tried April 12 to burn himself to death in the center of Riga as a protest against discrimination against Jews, it was reported here today. He was said to have shouted to Russian Marines to let him die or to give him freedom to emigrate to Israel. The student was identified as Ilia Ripps, a mathematics student. The incident was said to have taken place in front of a liberty statue and was witnessed by two American tourists, one from New Jersey, who told the story to the Geneva office of the International League for the Repatriation of Russian Jews.
The tourists said that they saw Mr. Ripps standing in front of the statue with his clothing soaked in gasoline. He put a match to himself and was engulfed in flames. A group of Russian Marines rushed up to him and put out the blaze. The incident was said to have been witnessed by a large crowd. The Americans said that he was brutally beaten and taken to a police station. He was reported variously to be under police guard in a hospital, with severe burns, and to be in a prison. His condition and whereabouts was not known.
Mr. Ripps reportedly said that he and other young Jews in Russia wanted to go to Israel because emigration was the only solution to the problems of Russian Jews. He wanted Jews in the West to try to persuade the Russians to let them go. According to Nina K, Solarz, executive director of the International League’s New York office, the student had had several encounters with officials in the past because he persisted in applying for emigration and demanding freedom.