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Human-rights Group Tries to Stop Anti-semitic Tv in St. Petersburg

A St. Petersburg-based human rights group and a team of lawyers are putting together a case to stop anti-Semitic broadcasts coming from the city-owned Petersburg Television.

The group, Citizens’ Watch, accuses the city’s major television channel of airing views by ultranationalists that incite national, racial and religious hatred, which is a criminal offense in Russia.

Last week, the channel’s popular talk show “Sobytiya,” or “Events,” hosted a leader of the overtly anti-Semitic Russian Party, who delivered the group’s call for “ethnic purges.” Nikolai Bondarik, who recently served a prison sentence for complicity in murder, used the show to express his anti-Semitic views.

“I don’t like the Jews,” Bondarik said. “Russians have made it to the cosmos, but Jews, they do nothing.”

Anti-Semitic pronouncements are frequent at the television station, whose shareholders include members of the municipal and regional governments.

Recently, the station hosted a series of shows in which viewers were invited to take part in call-in polls asking whether “ethnic purges should be carried out in St. Petersburg” and whether “in the event of pogroms in St. Petersburg” viewers would take part in them or defend the victims.

In one of the polls, 58 percent of 2,295 callers voted in favor of physical participation in pogroms.

Local officials and human rights advocates insist that the results do not represent the prevailing mood in St. Petersburg, which was recently given the title of “Russia’s cultural capital.”

However, Russia’s leading daily newspaper, Izvestia, reported the poll results under the headline “St. Pete Agrees To See Pogroms.”

EDITORS: Following is an update of the article sent Aug. 5 about a newly appointed British minister who once called for the dismantling of Israel. It incorporates quotes from Peter Hain, who, in the days since his appointment, has been reaching out to the Jewish community.

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