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Israeli Held by Police in Moscow While His Pamyat Attackers Go Free

February 14, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A representative of an Israeli group was arrested Wednesday in Moscow after being beaten by a gang affiliated with the anti-Semitic group Pamyat, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported.

Zeev Wagner, an emissary for the organization SHAMIR, was taken into custody by Russian police, who arrested, then freed, his attackers.

Additional Pamyat members went to the police station to accuse Wagner of attacking the group, said Marvin Aschendorf, executive director of American Friends of SHAMIR, the Association of Jewish Professionals from the Soviet Union in Israel.

In an eerie replication of the way Soviet Jews were treated in the pre-glasnost era, Wagner was charged with hooliganism and remains in jail.

However, he has been interviewed by the media, a somewhat promising sign, said Aschendorf, who is based in New York.

The police also allowed Wagner’s wife to bring him kosher food, as well as his tallit and tefillin. However, she was reportedly not permitted to see him.

Wagner, who immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union, was sent back to Moscow two years ago for SHAMIR. A Lubavitcher Hasid, he is well known in Russia from frequent television, radio and newspaper interviews, in which he talks about Jewish or Israeli issues.

Wagner has been serving the Moscow Jewish community as a teacher and coordinator.

According to Aschendorf, Wagner was driving and saw a Pamyat demonstration in front of the Lenin Library. He stopped to use a public telephone, to tell his wife when he would be home.

With his back to the crowd, Wagner was talking to his wife when she heard shouting and what sounded like a crowd approaching, Aschendorf said.

The telephone receiver dropped and the line went dead.

A policeman present said Wagner was beaten by about 10 or 12 Pamyat demonstrators. The police arrested all and took them to the local police station.

Aschendorf said that Wagner carried a can of mace for protection and had used it to fend off his attackers.

He said that “at the police station, the vanguard of the Pamyat demonstration came to bear witness that Zeev Wagner attacked them.”


In the meantime, the Pamyat people were released, according to Wagner’s wife.

“She saw the Pamyat people there. She was told that they were filing a complaint against Wagner, saying he attacked them,” Aschendorf said.

“This is a little ridiculous, since one man does not attack a whole group,” he said.

According to Aschendorf, the Pamyat people left the station singing the Pamyat anthem.

Wagner was then transferred to the police investigation department at 38 Petrovska Street, where he remained as of late Thursday.

Aschendorf pointed out that an existing statute against anti-Semitic incitement was not used against the Pamyat people.

Efforts are now being made to free Wagner through diplomatic channels, chiefly between the Israeli Embassy and Russian authorities, Aschendorf said.

That information was confirmed by an independent source, who said the Israelis have been actively engaged since Wednesday in attempts to obtain Wagner’s release.

Said Aschendorf: “Whether this is a part of a different scenario, where there is a complete loss of control within the former Soviet republic, or whether this is going to be a signal to other fascists that it is now open season on Jews, that is something we have to see as time goes on.”

The recent high visibility of the nationalist Pamyat in demonstrations against the government “should be a signal to all of us,” said Aschendorf. “They have become the vanguard of a populist movement.”

The bigger question, he said, is “what is the situation in the Russian republic itself with regard to law and order?”

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