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Ukraine cemetery vandals identified

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Ukraine officials reportedly identified three teenagers who allegedly burned down a memorial at the Zhitomir Jewish cemetery.

The Secret Service of Ukraine, or SBU, and the Ministry of Home Affairs identified the students, according to a report posted Tuesday on sbu.gov.ua.

The suspects, aged 17 to 19, are accused of burning down a memorial called the Ohel of Tzadik Rabbi Aharon from Zhitomir – a student of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism – during the night of April 15-16.

It was the second reported incident of vandalism in Zhitomir, a city of approximately 275,000 in western Ukraine, in the past five months.

SBU investigators said the teens played soccer near the cemetery before lighting a fire near the Ohel to warm up, but the fire went out of control and burned down the historic memorial. The Secret Service turned over the case to a local prosecutor; it was unclear what charges if any the teens would face.

Ukrainian courts often prosecute cases of ethnic violence as hooliganism to avoid Ukraine’s hate crimes statute, which carries more stringent penalties.

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