Leningrad Deputy Mayor, British Jews, in Verbal Clash over Soviet Jews

Deputy Mayor Yevgeny Gogolev of Leningrad met with representatives of the local Jewish community in the Lord Mayor’s office today but failed to convince them that all was well with Jews in Leningrad and in the Soviet Union generally. The Russian official and Leningrad’s famed Kirov Ballet are visiting Manchester as guests of Lord Mayor Edward Grant and the City Council.

But the visit has been marred by repeated confrontations between the Russians and Jewish and non-Jewish activists demanding an end to the mistreatment of Soviet Jews. Jews are particularly incensed over the ouster of Valery Panov and his wife, Galina, from the Kirov company because they had applied for visas to go to Israel. They also continually reminded the Russians of the Jewish defendants in the Leningrad hijack trials now serving long prison terms in Soviet prisons and forced labor camps.

At a press conference yesterday, Gogolev said that “Valery and Galina Panov are in their present situation because of their bad behavior and their attempt to change their nationality.” He said the same thing at his meeting with local Jews today but failed to molify them. When he spoke of the contributions by Jews to the development of Leningrad, the delegation pointed out that Manchester Jews are in telephone contact with Jews in Leningrad and are fully aware of the harassment suffered by Jews who apply for exit visas. Gogolev said at his press conference yesterday that he numbered Jews among his “best friends.”

A performance of the Kirov, Ballet here was disrupted last night by shouts, catcalls and the unfurling of banners from the balcony by activists protesting the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union. Police hustled some demonstrators out of the hall but others remained and continued to interrupt the visiting artists with shouted demands for justice for Soviet Jews. No arrests were made.

The demonstrations began as soon as the audience was seated following the British national anthem. About 70 women dressed in black, members of the “35 Committee,” rose in the balcony and unfurled banners referring to the Jews imprisoned after the Leningrad hijack trials and the ouster of Valery and Galina Panov from the Kirov troupe when they applied for exit visas.

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