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New Soviet Restrictions May Cut Level of Jewish Travel to Israel

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The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews has asked the U.S. State Department to look into new Soviet travel regulations that it says thwart travel by Soviets abroad.

The group says the restrictions, which went into effect July 1, could cut down substantially on the number of Soviet Jews able to travel to Israel.

According to the new regulations, ordered by the Soviet Aviation and Finance ministries, Soviet citizens can no longer purchase tickets on the state carrier Aeroflot for destinations beyond its normal service area, unless they use hard, or non-Soviet, currency.

“Soviet citizens, with few exceptions, are permitted to exchange only 200 rubles, or about $300, in any one year,” said Micah Naftalin, the organization’s national director.

The Soviet Jewry advocacy group has asked the State Department to examine whether the new legislation violates the Soviet Union’s obligations under the Vienna Concluding Document, the human rights accord the Soviet Union and 34 other nations signed in January.

The restrictions were reported last week when a Moscow refusenik, Leonid Stonov, told Naftalin that “more than a dozen” Soviet Jews had been turned away at Aeroflot counters the first week of July. This was confirmed Wednesday night by Moscow cultural leader Mikhail Chlenov.

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