NEW YORK (Feb. 21)
More than 60 Soviet Jewish refusniks from cities throughout the Soviet Union converged today on the Presidium in Moscow and peacefully demanded to know, in writing, why they were being refused permission to emigrate and when the ban on their emigration would be lifted, it was reported by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry. In addition, 150 demonstrators in 12 other cities held similar protests. Soviet authorities generally rejected the protestors’ demands, the two groups reported.
The recent demonstrations, highly courageous acts in the Soviet Union, are reminiscent of protests held last October which were highlighted by KGB-inspired beatings of several activists, mass arrests and interrogations, and the leveling of criminal charges against two individuals which might have brought them five years in prison. Charges against the two–Dr. Iosif Ahss and Boris Chernobilsky–were dropped following massive protests from the West. As in the fall protests, these demonstrations included many of the most prominent long-term refusniks.
In New York, reaction was immediate, the National Conference and Greater New York Conference reported. Thousands of telegrams supporting the demonstrators were dispatched to Soviet officials. Community groups affiliated with the Greater New York Conference asked every member of the New York Congressional delegation to communicate with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, the State Department, other American officials, and the Soviet government, the deeply felt concern held by members of Congress for the scores of demonstrators and the thousands of Soviet Jews they represent.