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Yeltsin Vows to Launch Offensive on Anti-semitism

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has promised to launch a “major offensive” against anti-Semitic and extremist statements.

Russia’s Justice Ministry said earlier this month that it would send the draft of a new bill against political extremism and anti-Semitism to Parliament before the end of the year.

Experts believe that such a bill has little chance of passing the Communist- and nationalist-dominated Parliament, but Yeltsin’s statement could indicate that he intends to enact the law by presidential decree.

The actions come after a slew of anti-Semitic incidents in Russia in the past three months placed the issue of anti-Semitism onto Yeltsin’s agenda. Last week, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov sent a letter to the Justice Ministry in which he blamed “Zionist capital” for the collapse of the Russian economy and the poverty of the ethnic Russian population.

In his first television interview in four months, Yeltsin said, “In this law, we will have to get tough on these issues and toward all those people, from government representatives to ordinary citizens, who reflect” anti-Semitic and extremist ideas.

Russia’s criminal code prohibits inciting racial and religious hatred, but the laws have rarely been applied.

Earlier this fall, the Kremlin vowed to fight political extremism and ultranationalism in response to earlier anti-Semitic statements by Communist lawmakers. No concrete actions have been taken so far.

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