06MOSCOW152, ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACK ON CHABAD SYNAGOGUE IN MOSCOW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW152 2006-01-12 16:04 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9967
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0152/01 0121604
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121604Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8892
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000152 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/12/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL RS SOCI
SUBJECT: ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACK ON CHABAD SYNAGOGUE IN MOSCOW 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  For reasons 1.4 (b and 
d). 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY.  On the evening of January 11, a 
20-year-old man broke into a Lubavitch synagogue in Moscow 
during prayer services and injured eight men, including an 
AmCit.  None of the victims has life-threatening injuries, 
but some are reportedly in serious but stable condition.  The 
Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing sympathy to 
the victims and condemning the attack.  In conversations with 
Berl Lazar, one of the Chief Rabbis of Russia, and the 
Israeli Charge, the Ambassador underlined that we will 
continue to encourage the GOR to make strong statements at a 
high level condemning anti-Semitic activities and violence, 
as well as to take practical steps to prevent further 
incidents.  END SUMMARY 
 
ATTACK AT THE SYNAGOGUE 
----------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) At approximately 5pm Moscow time on January 11, a 
20-year-old identified as Aleksandr Koptsev wounded eight men 
gathered for evening prayers at the Chabad synagogue on 
Bolshaya Bronnaya street in central Moscow.  At least one 
witness reported that the knife-wielding attacker screamed 
"I'm here to kill Jews" during the attack.  Several 
individuals, including Rabbi Itzaak Kogan, captured the 
attacker and detained him until police arrived.  One account 
indicated that the attacker may have tried to kill himself 
while being subdued.  The attacker is reportedly being 
charged with attempted murder and incitement of hatred. 
Press reports indicated that police found a stash of weapons 
and a list of addresses of several Moscow synagogues in a 
search of the attacker's apartment.  While the attacker was 
initially identified as a skinhead, police subsequently 
reported that they had no record of his association with any 
extremist group.  Responding to comments that the attacker 
was insane, Rabbi Kogan said that the attacker seemed 
cognizant that he was committing an anti-Semitic attack. 
 
3. (U) Three of the victims were foreign citizens, an 
American, Israeli, and Tajik.  Details of the American 
citizen's condition is reported septel. 
 
RESPONSE 
-------- 
 
4. (U) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted an official 
statement on the attack on their website dated January 11. 
It expressed sympathy to the victims, condemned the attack, 
and said that "provocations by those who would like to bring 
discord into Russian society and stir up national and 
religious strife have not succeeded and will not succeed." 
Russian Procurator General Vladimir Ustinov announced on 
January 11 that he would himself oversee the case against the 
attacker.  According to one press report, Duma Speaker Boris 
Gryzlov said following the incident that it might precipitate 
stronger Russian legislation against fascism and 
anti-Semitism. 
 
5. (C) Berl Lazar, one of the Chief Rabbis of Russia, was in 
Israel when the attack took place but returned immediately to 
Moscow.  Condemning the attack in a January 11 statement, 
Lazar said that "where the idea of fascism is spread, it 
eventually turns into reality, as happened today in Moscow." 
Aleksandr Akselrod, director of the Moscow office of the 
Anti-Defamation League, told us that Lazar's statement was 
particularly significant, given that until now he has 
downplayed the extent of anti-Semitism in Russia.  In a 
January 12 press conference, Lazar again condemned the 
attack, calling on Russian government and law enforcement 
officials to ensure it does not repeat itself.  He said that 
in a multiethnic country like Russia, only severe measures 
can counter such incidents. 
 
6. (U) Among those commenting on the incident was Dmitriy 
Rogozin, head of the nationalist Rodina party.  In a January 
12 statement, Rogozin, some of whose members signed an 
anti-Semitic letter to the Procurator General last year, 
condemned the attack as "horrible and senseless."  He also 
said that the attacker was likely "psychologically 
disturbed," since any sane person could not commit such a 
crime. 
 
EMBASSY ACTIONS 
--------------- 
 
7. (SBU) In response to the attack, the Ambassador called 
Rabbi Lazar on January 12 to express our deep concern over 
the attack.  The Ambassador emphasized that the USG would 
continue to strongly encourage the GOR to make high-level 
public statements condemning anti-Semitic activities and 
 
MOSCOW 00000152  002 OF 002 
 
 
violence and to take practical steps to effectively address 
and prevent such incidents in the future.  The Ambassador 
made similar statements in a discussion with the Israeli 
Charge in Moscow.  The Ambassador plans to meet with Rabbi 
Kogan on January 13. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
8. (C) This anti-Semitic attack clearly demonstrates the need 
for the GOR to engage more actively in combating extremist 
activity.  Chabad rabbis and parishioners have been victims 
of violence before.  Earl
y in 2005, two rabbis leaving a 
synagogue in the Marina Roscha neighborhood of Moscow were 
attacked and beaten.  This latest attack shows that 
anti-Semitic sentiment continues to motivate violence in 
Russia.  Although President Putin has made public statements 
condemning anti-Semitism, officials at the local level have 
not always reinforced that view.  That many of Putin's 
previous statements, such as that in Poland during Auschwitz 
commemoration ceremonies, were made abroad has lessened their 
impact with the Russian public.  There is some danger that 
the authorities will play down this incident as being 
committed by a "mentally unstable person" rather than an 
anti-Semite.  A strong statement of condemnation of 
anti-Semitism from Putin would be important in the aftermath 
of this attack. 
BURNS

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