Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 10, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Dear Friend,

This week, Chief Rabbi of Sochi Ari Edelkopf said he and his family are facing deportation. He is accused of making threats to national security and attempting to subvert the Russian constitution. He wrote on Sunday that the “threat” he poses has not been specified, and he has received no further information about specific allegations against him.

On Wednesday, a Russian judge convicted opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, one of the Kremlin’s most ardent critics, on fraud charges. Mr. Navalny was given a five-year suspended prison sentence, fined 500,000 rubles ($8,400) and barred from running in next year’s presidential election. He and his supporters dismissed the underlying accusation – that he embezzled $500,000 worth of timber from a state-owned company – as baseless and politically motivated.

Both Russian and American news outlets have reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Antonov may become the new Ambassador to the United States, replacing current Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, who has held the post since 2008.

In Belarus this week, police arrested suspects in the desecration of a Mogilev Holocaust memorial. NCSEJ has been closely monitoring developments in this case, and contacted Belarussian officials when the incident was first reported in November 2016. The Belarus Embassy worked with NCSEJ and provided updates on the matter. NCSEJ acknowledged the Belarus government’s action which will hopefully demonstrate that anti-Semitic vandalism and other hateful acts will not be tolerated.

Romanians took to the streets to protest a government decree that many saw as backtracking on fighting corruption. Romania’s long struggle against corruption has placed the issue at the center of its political debates. The government decree would have decriminalized some corruption offenses, which alarmed Romanian judges and prosecutors. In Brussels, the European Commission expressed concern, as many people inside and outside Romania feared the decree could undermine the rule of law in one of Europe’s youngest democracies. Although the government revoked the decree and survived a no-confidence vote on Wednesday, opponents vowed to continue to fight, and on Thursday, Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned.

Included this week is a summary by NCSEJ Research Fellow, Yury Terekhov, on the launch of Current Time, an independent Russian-language news channel created by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America. Also included are articles on how the U.S. and the Trump administration can approach Russia. An Economist editorial, “What America might want from Russia, but is unlikely to get,” provides a particularly interesting and thorough perspective.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 10, 2017

Summary “Current Time: The Independent Russian Language News Network”
NCSEJ, February 8, 2017

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, NCSEJ Research Fellow Yury Terekhov attended a discussion “Current Time: The Independent Russian Language News Network” hosted at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.

The discussion featured Mr. Thomas Kent, President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Ms. Amanda Bennett, Director of Voice of America; Ms. Daisy Sindelar, Director of the Current Time; and Ms. Irina Van Dusen, Director of the Russian Service of Voice of America. The panelists discussed the launch of the new VOA and RFE/RL project – Current Time – an alternative Russian language network to the Moscow-controlled media and a reality check on disinformation.

American Chabad rabbi called security risk in Russia, ordered to leave
JTA, February 8, 2017

An American rabbi who has worked for the Chabad movement in Russia since 2002 said he and his family are facing deportation under a provision dealing with threats to national security.

Ari Edelkopf, a father of seven who grew up in the United States and lived in Israel before settling in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi as Chabad’s envoy there, wrote on Facebook on Sunday that he was informed of the decision without receiving further information on specific allegations.

Read the full article here.

Annual “Russian Mega” Event featured Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman
eJewishPhilanthropy, February 8, 2017

The annual Mega event for 1000 Birthright participants from the FSU took place last night in Jerusalem.

For the majority of Russian-speaking Birthright Israel participants, the ten day trip to Israel marks not only their first visit to the country but also an opportunity to witness Israel’s vast cultural wealth, beautiful landscapes and diverse society firsthand, taking that experience with them back home to their Jewish communities.

Jewish Opposition Activist Mark Galperin Detained in Moscow
By David Israel
Jewish Press, February 7, 2017

Civil rights activist Mark Galperin on Tuesday morning told Kommersant, a nationally distributed daily Russian newspaper devoted to politics and business, that a number of unknown had people attempted to get into his apartment, and then began to break open the door.
Read the full article here.

Moscow's Chief Rabbi Saddened by "Total Silence" From MPs in Anti-Semitism Row
Newsweek, February 8, 2017

Moscow’s top rabbi has condemned the “total silence” from Russia’s parliament after its deputy speaker made comments which appeared to blame Jews for destroying cathedrals.

Pinchas Goldschmidt was referring to remarks made by Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house from the ruling United Russia party and the great-grandson of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.

Read the full article here.

Kremlin Critic Kara-Murza Emerges From Coma, Condition Improving
By Carl Schreck, Mike Eckel
RFE/RL, February 9, 2017

Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. who has been hospitalized in critical condition for the second time in two years in what his family and friends suspect was a deliberate poisoning, has awoken from a coma and improved noticeably, his lawyer and wife told RFE/RL.

Vadim Prokhorov said in a February 8 post on Facebook that his client’s heart was functioning normally and that he was conscious enough to interact with his wife, though he still was unable to talk.

Read the full article here.

Russian Activist Navalny Given 5-Year Suspended Sentence in Kirovles Retrial
Moscow Times, February 8, 2017

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has been given a five-year suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of embezzlement.

The decision jeopardizes his hopes of running for the Russian presidency in 2018, when Vladimir Putin is likely to seek his fourth term in office.

Read the full article here.

Criminal investigation into the desecration of the stone monument "In memory of the Jews of Mogilev - the victims of Nazism" is completed in Mogilev
Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus, January 30, 2017 (in Russian)

The Mogilev inter-district department of the Investigative Committee completed a criminal investigation against three residents of Mogilev, accused of desecrating the stone monument dedicated "In memory of the Jews of Mogilev - the victims of Nazism."

The defendants in the case are three residents of Mogilev (two of them are minors). 

Read the full article here.

Belarus upholds extradition of Israeli blogger to Azerbaijan
Times of Israel, February 7, 2017

The Belarus Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a government decision to extradite a popular Israeli travel blogger to Azerbaijan where he will face criminal prosecution for insulting the leader of the Central Asian nation and making unauthorized visits to its disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Read the full article here.

Police in Poland raid offices of center monitoring racism and xenophobia
JTA, February 5, 2017

Police raided the offices of the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior in Warsaw as part of a fraud investigation.

The search Friday came at the request of the Bialystok prosecutor’s office as part of its probe into fraud, counterfeiting of documents and other offenses, Lukasz Janyst, a spokesman for prosecutors in Bialystok, told reporters.

Lithuanian President Says NATO Deployment Sends 'Clear Message' Of Unity
RFE/RL, February 7, 2017

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite says the deployment of NATO forces in the Baltic country is sending a "very clear" message that the military alliance stands "strong and united."

Grybauskaite spoke on February 7 at a ceremony to welcome a German battalion in the central Lithuanian town of Rukla.

Ukraine conflict: Rebel leader Givi dies in bomb attack
BBC News, February 8, 2017

A prominent separatist commander has been killed in eastern Ukraine, four days after another pro-Russian military leader was blown up by a car bomb.

Mikhail Tolstykh, known as Givi, died in his office in an explosion described by rebel authorities in Donetsk as a terrorist attack.

Read the full article here.

Moscow Readies a New, Hard-Line Ambassador for Washington
Foreign Policy, February 8, 2017

Moscow is reportedly preparing to send a new ambassador to Washington, and if history is any guide, he might end up being a great fit for the city’s new policy realities.  

According to a reports from several Russian news outlets on Monday, the Kremlin is considering promoting Anatoly Antonov, a hardliner who is currently Moscow’s deputy foreign minister, to the post. Antonov is a well-known figure among U.S. diplomatic and foreign policy hands, several of whom characterized him as a tough, well-prepared negotiator who can also act as an unrepentant propagandist when the need arises.

Trump Gives a Boost to Putin’s Propaganda
Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2017

President Trump’s expression of “respect” for Vladimir Putin in an interview that aired over the weekend, and his comparison of extrajudicial killings by the Putin regime to American actions, has ushered in a new era in U.S.-Russian relations. Never before has an American president implied that political murder is acceptable or that the U.S. is guilty of similar crimes.

Read the full article here.

U.S. Preps for Infowar on Russia
By Tim Mak
Daily Beast, February 6, 2017

President Trump may be continuing his public pursuit for Vladimir Putin’s affections. But behind the scenes, the United States is quietly preparing to wage an information war against Russia.

Read the full article here.
Senate Foreign Relations takes hard line on Russia
The Hill, February 9, 2017

There was bipartisan agreement in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that the legislative branch should take decisive action against Russia, even if that means circumventing the White House’s expressed desire for a better relationship between the two nations.

Meet the Progressive Russian Immigrants Fighting Trump — and Their Own Families
By Samantha Shokin
Forward, February 7, 2017

Emblazoned in handwritten Cyrillic on Olga Tomchin’s back is a word that has come to embody so much more than its literal definition. Pozor, Russian for “disgrace” (or shanda in Yiddish) has become a rallying cry for a movement of Soviet-born millennials defying their families’ ideologies and banding together in opposition to Donald Trump. Like so much else, the pozor meme emerged from the Internet, but has now taken on a life of its own, permeating IRL conversations among my immigrant kin and shining a spotlight on the ideological split devastating so many of our families. And in Tomchin’s case, the tattoo serves as a daily reminder of the disobedience, civil or otherwise, that has defined her life.

'Orgy of murder': The Poles who 'hunted' Jews and turned them over to the Nazis
By Ofer Aderet
Haaretz, February 9, 2017

More than 200,000 Jews were killed, directly or indirectly, by Poles in World War II, says historian Jan Grabowski, who studied the brutal persecution of the victims. His conclusion: There were no bystanders in the Holocaust.

Last month, the Polish-born historian Jan Grabowski won a lawsuit he filed against a Polish website. About 18 months earlier, the site had launched a savage attack on him under the headline, “Sieg Heil, Mr. Grabowski,” accompanied by a photograph of the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

Exclusive: In First Talk With Jewish Media, Hungary’s Far Right Leader Strikes a New Pose
By Lili Bayer
Forward, February 9, 2017

Gabor Vona, who heads Hungary’s far-right party, Jobbik, famously showed up on his first day as a member of Parliament in 2010 wearing the uniform of a banned racist and an anti-Semitic paramilitary group.

But the morning of Wednesday, February 1, sitting in his office overlooking the partially frozen Danube River, Vona was dressed in a simple gray suit for his first-ever interview with a Jewish publication.

Read the full article here.
What America might want from Russia, but is unlikely to get
Economist, February 11, 2017

FOR decades, Russian leaders insisted that America had no claim to moral superiority. For every Soviet and post-Soviet misdeed, from labour camps to invasions, they adduced an American counterpart. Such equivalence was anathema to American statesmen, who claimed to abide by higher standards. Until now.

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Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.