Behind the Headlines: Russian Jews Hear Loud Message from Political Silence After Stabbing
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Behind the Headlines: Russian Jews Hear Loud Message from Political Silence After Stabbing

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In contrast to Israeli and American leaders, who swiftly and unambiguously condemned the stabbing of a Jewish leader in Moscow’s Choral Synagogue earlier this week, Russian politicians have been quiet about the attack.

Their silence is a “bad sign,” according to Pavel Feldblum, the executive vice president of the Moscow Jewish community.

He attributed the silence to the fact that politicians “fear to lose votes by raising their voices against anti-Semitism.”

“This silence is reflective of the mood of the Russian electorate.”

Indeed, outside of news reports carrying the condemnation by a minister who has not been part of the Russian Cabinet since the spring, Russian authorities have said little about the incident, which left Leopold Kaimovsky in the intensive care unit in a Moscow hospital with wounds to the face, stomach and leg.

While leading politicians have steered clear of commenting, the Russian media have given considerable air time and print to the anti-Semitic views of Nikita Krivchun, the 20-year-old assailant. Interviews with him taken in a detention center have appeared in all major newspapers and television news broadcasts.

One official statement responding to the stabbing caused the indignation of Jewish leaders here.

Oleg Mironov, Russia’s ombudsman, criticized authorities for not taking the steps necessary to prevent hate crimes. But the letter by Mironov, a member of the Communist Party, warned “some forces” in the society against what he called attempts to use such incidents to “fan hysteria” in the society.

Jewish leaders are interpreting the statement as an implicit request that the Jewish community refrain from speaking out on anti-Semitic incidents.

Krivchun has been charged with attempted murder motivated by ethnic, racial or religious hatred. If found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Earlier reports indicated that Krivchun would be charged under statutes that would leave him with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Meanwhile, all Jewish sites in Moscow were given unprecedented police supervision Thursday after an unidentified individual called the Choral Synagogue on Wednesday to say that a Russian neo-Nazi leader had ordered his organization to set up “actions” near several Moscow synagogues.

On Wednesday, police also issued an official warning to Alexander Barkashov, the leader of Russian National Unity, Russia’s largest and best-organized neo- Nazi group.

Krivchun insists he carried out a political act and that his aim was to attract attention to the plight of the ethnic Russian population, which he says “stands on its knees before the Jews.”

He claims he was not acting for any political group.

Nonetheless, the Russian Jewish Congress has sent a letter to the national election committee urging it to ban any party or candidate from December’s parliamentary election who has made anti-Semitic remarks.

While the committee has not yet responded to the letter, the idea may appeal to the Kremlin, which has been seeking to ban the Communist Party, a major critic of President Boris Yeltsin.

Some prominent Communists made anti-Semitic statements following Russia’s economic collapse last August.

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