MOSCOW, Dec. 3 (JTA) — For the first time, Russian federal officials are launching an investigation into the desecration of a Jewish cemetery. The office of Russia’s Prosecutor General initiated a criminal investigation after 16 graves were destroyed last week in the Jewish cemetery of Saratov, located some 450 miles southeast of Moscow. The move came in response to a letter by Vladimir Goussinsky, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, who urged the prosecutor general to investigate the crime and to take measures to prevent such incidents in the future. Several dozen Jewish graves at the same cemetery were desecrated a few months ago. Although the cemetery belongs to the municipality, Jewish leaders in Saratov said they could not rely on the authorities to protect the cemetery. The Jewish community had to hire special guards for the cemetery in the town that is home to 8,000 Jews. In a separate case, two suspects in the April bombing of the Jewish community center in the town of Yaroslavl will face trial Dec. 23. Parts of the 80-year-old building housing the community center suffered serious damage as a result of the explosion, which caused no injuries. Along with a synagogue, the center houses local organizations that serve the needs of the Jewish community in Yaroslavl, located about 130 miles northeast of Moscow.