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Soviet Freighter Docks at Ashdod, First in Israeli Waters Since 1967

The 2,180-ton Russian freighter Vita Novitsky docked at Ashdod Monday, the first Soviet vessel in nearly 22 years to call at an Israeli port.

The freighter was at dockside only five hours, loading 40 tons of flour and foodstuffs and another 40 tons of clothing and other articles for victims of the earthquake that devastated Soviet Armenia last December.

The collection was organized by Israeli peace advocate Abie Nathan immediately after the disaster. Israel also sent rescue teams and supplies by air at the time.

The relief cargo, which includes toys for young children, was packed by volunteers in hundreds of cardboard cartons, each destined for a family deprived of their home and possessions by the earthquake.

Nathan wanted to charter a ship, but he was told by the Soviet authorities that direct sailings from Israel to a Russian port have been banned since Moscow severed all relations with Israel in 1967.

When the Vita Novitsky was diverted from her normal voyage to Ashdod, no one was more surprised than her 54-year-old skipper, lgor Nitkin.

He told reporters at the dock in Ashdod that the cabled orders were totally unexpected. “But this is a time of change, worldwide,” the Soviet sea captain observed.

The loading of the relief supplies was witnessed by members of the Soviet consular delegation from Tel Aviv and Armenian church dignitaries.

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