Kosygin Says Israel Creates Difficulties for Jews Who Want to Return to the USSR

Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin struck back today at critics of his government’s treatment of Jews and challenged Israel to explain “why it creates so many difficulties for those Soviet Jews who want to return to their Fatherland.” The Soviet leader made his remarks in reply to questions at a press conference here following three days of meetings with Danish government leaders and bitter though peaceful protests by thousands of Danish Jews and non-Jews against the denial of emigration rights and other rights to Jews in the USSR.

A joint communique issued at the end of the official meetings today mentioned the Middle East conflict but contained no indication that the issue of Soviet Jews was discussed although Danish leaders had promised before Kosygin’s arrival that it would be on the agenda. The references to the Middle East stated that both governments were concerned with continuing tension in that region, supported the Security Council’s Resolution 242 as the basis for a just settlement and backed renewal of the Jarring peace mission.

Kosygin’s challenge to Israel was apparently based on press reports that have received wide currency in recent days that some Jewish emigres–mainly from the Soviet Georgian Republic–were disappointed with Israel and wanted to return to the USSR. Asked to explain why Jews who want to leave the USSR for Israel are confronted with so many official difficulties, the Soviet Premier said. “Everybody knows that a growing number of Jews leave the Soviet Union nowadays and all those who want to leave are allowed to and are well treated.” Kosygin insisted that there was no Jewish problem in Russia except that “born in the West.”

Asked about the Leningrad hijack trial, he said there was a plot to hijack a plane at Leningrad Airport and it was punished in the USSR just as crimes are punished all over the world. Kosygin repeated that there were “not many” Jews asking for visas but those who did “got an answer very soon.” He said in reply to a question that there was “no reason to renew diplomatic relations between the USSR and Israel at this junction.” He denied that such a move might favorably influence the Middle East conflict. “Russia has never been among the aggressors but Israel has acted in an aggressive way,” he said.

On Thursday night thousands marched in a torchlight parade to City Hall where they distributed some 4,000 postcards to Danes to be signed and mailed to Kosygin. The card stated, “We Scandinavians are free to leave and to go wherever we wish. Let Russia’s Jews do the same.” About 1,500 persons held a rally for Soviet Jews at Copenhagen’s main synagogue. On Friday night thousands of demonstrators marched around Kosygin’s hotel and later converged on the Soviet Embassy. Police refused to disperse the protestors.

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