MOSCOW (Jun. 22)
Vladimir Zhirinovsky has made a surprise appearance at a benefit concert for a Lubavitch synagogue here that was bombed last month.
After the concert, the leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party got up on stage, said he was outraged by the synagogue bombing and added that he would support any anti-vandalism bill brought before Russia’s Parliament.
Zhirinovsky, who heads the third largest faction in the Duma, the parliament’s lower house, also spoke positively about the Jewish contribution to Russian culture, economy and politics.
One of the organizers of the concert said nobody invited Zhirinovsky to the event, but that he was allowed to speak in order to avoid a scandal.
Berel Lazar, the rabbi of the bombed Marina Roscha synagogue, said he was bewildered by Zhirinovsky, who has often been quoted making anti-Semitic statements.
“I’m not sure exactly what it was,” Lazar, the chief emissary of the Lubavitch movement in Russia, said of Zhirinovsky’s appearance at the concert.
The speech was a striking contrast to an hourlong anti-Semitic tirade the ultra-nationalist leader delivered in April.
At a news conference in Moscow, Zhirinovsky blamed Jews for starting World War II, provoking the Holocaust, sparking the 1917 Bolshevik revolution — and destroying the country ever since.
Rumors have circulated for years that Zhirinovsky’s anti-Semitism is a response to his own Jewish background. Zhirinovsky has repeatedly denied that his father, who had a Jewish-sounding name, was Jewish.
Meanwhile, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said Russia must stop the spread of neo-Nazism.
Yeltsin’s comments came as Russia marked the 57th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and after reports of recent attacks on Asians and Africans in Russia.
Referring specifically to anti-Semitism and the idea of national supremacy, Yeltsin asked, “Will the Russians allow the most fearful ideology ever known to mankind to take root on our soil?
Yeltsin’s statement in a nationwide radio address Monday marked the first time a Russian leader said neo-Nazism poses a threat to the nation.
“For the first time, the government has acknowledged that the problem” of neo- Nazism exists, Lazar said.