MOSCOW, March 16 (JTA) — Russian prosecutors are refusing to launch a criminal investigation of a Communist Party lawmaker for a statement that was widely interpreted as a call for anti-Jewish pogroms. According to the Rostov Regional Prosecutor’s Office, a controversial speech made by Albert Makashov last month “was not aimed at inciting ethnic strife.” The decision by the prosecutors came as the president of the Russian Jewish Congress, Vladimir Goussinsky, urged the U.S. Jewish community to press for diplomatic isolation of members of the Communist Party who have made anti-Semitic remarks during the past year. Goussinsky made his comments at a meeting Monday with leaders of the World Jewish Congress in New York, where he discussed the recent rise in Russian anti-Semitism. Makashov, a hard-line Communist legislator, who has made repeated anti-Semitic statements since the Russian economy collapsed last August, said there are both “good Jews” and “bad Jews” and those whom the nationalists consider good “will continue to live,” while the bad “will have a hard time.” The remarks in Novocherkassk, a largely Cossack mining town in the southern Russian region of Rostov, outraged the Jewish community, liberal journalists and lawmakers. Speaking at a conference sponsored by a nationalist group known as the Movement in Support of the Army, Makashov told the audience: “Jews are brave. They are so brave because we are sleeping, because none of us has yet knocked on their door.” He also suggested the group, of which he is a leader, should change its name to the Movement Against Yids. Last week, the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, was scheduled to vote on a motion proposed by liberal deputies aimed at censuring Makashov for his anti-Semitism. The vote was blocked by the Communists, the largest single group in the house. Makashov recently announced that he will make a bid for the Russian presidency when elections are held next year. In January, federal prosecutors launched a criminal investigation of Makashov for his anti-Semitic statements, but little progress has been reported. Meanwhile, Jewish officials say the surge in Russian anti-Semitism, along with the persistent economic trouble, is prompting more Jews to opt for emigration. According to the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Moscow office, 3,300 Jews left Russia for the Jewish state in the first two months of 1999 compared with 1,600 in the same period last year. In addition, some sources in Israel indicate that in recent months an increasing number of Russian Jews who arrived in the Jewish state as tourists have requested changes in their visa status to allow them to remain permanently in Israel.
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