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Russian Official Visits Jewish Group in America

November 27, 1996
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Former Russian Security Chief Alexander Lebed told a group of Jewish leaders here last week that he is not an anti-Semite.

Lebed, who was fired from his post in October by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and who has his own presidential aspirations, paid a call on members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“I am not, have never been and never will be an anti-Semite,” the former general declared, according to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the umbrella organization.

Lebed made the comments following reports of anti-Semitic remarks he claimed were taken out of context.

During a wide-ranging discussion, Lebed said he wanted to see friendship and expanded trade relations between Russia and Israel, as well as a separation of church and state in Russia.

He said “hope has almost died” in Russia in the past few years and that “people aren’t trained for what it means to be free in a democracy.”

At the same time he said that with Russia’s past sacrifices in the fight against fascism, ultranationalism could not flourish.

Lebed, a former general, came in third in Russia’s recent presidential race with 15 percent of the vote. He threw his support to Yeltsin in the subsequent runoff in exchange for the top security post.

Said Hoenlein of Lebed, “Clearly he wants to establish a relationship and he considers this an important constituency.”

“He made a case in his defense,” he added, “but it is too early to draw conclusions.”

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