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Helsinki Commission Condemns Attack at Moscow Synagogue, Calls on Russian Authorities to Combat Ultra-Nationalism

Washington – The leadership of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe condemned today the attack in a Moscow synagogue that left numerous worshippers wounded, including at least one American. 

“This vicious attack on a peaceful group of worshippers is deeply troubling,” said Commission Chairman Sam Brownback (R-KS).  “I have met many members of the Moscow Chabad community.  They are devoted to God and family and our prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.”

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

“Yesterday’s attack is not an isolated incident, but part of an escalating rise in violence against Jews worldwide who continue to be the victims of mindless assault,” noted Commission Co-Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “I urge the Russian authorities to make every effort to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any perpetrators involved in this attack.”

According to press accounts, the victims in the attack were stabbed by a 20-year-old knife-wielding skinhead during evening prayers at the Headquarters and Synagogue of Agudas Chasidei Chabad of the Former Soviet Union on Moscow’s Bolshaya Bronnaya Street.  Among the injured was Rabbi Isaac Kogan, who testified in April, 2005 before the Commission on efforts to retrieve the Schneerson Collection of sacred texts from Russia.

“Russian officials have condemned violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the past, and they have condemned this act, but in too many cases violence against minorities has been met with complacency.  This has to change,” said Commission Ranking Senate Member Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT).   

The Moscow Human Rights Center reports that Russia has up to 50,000 ‘skinheads,’ while the estimated total number of skinhead activists outside Russia is approximately 70,000.   In recent years, the Russian press has reported on several violent attacks, some of them fatal, against foreign nationals and ethnic minorities throughout the country. 

“I hope that this vicious attack prompts Moscow to do more to combat anti-Semitic violence,” added Commission Ranking House Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD).  “Russian authorities must fight the culture of impunity that has developed around ultra-nationalist, pro-fascist groups.” 

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