Friday, January 13, 2006

8 Stabbed in Moscow Synagogue -- Skinhead Fascism Blamed

Radio Free Europe reports that Aleksandr Koptsev, an unemployed Moscow youth stabbed eight people in the Chabad Bronnaya synagogue on January 11. Koptsev shouted anti-Semitic slogans in what one witness called a "well-planned attack." The assault ended only when he was stopped and wrestled to the ground by a teenage boy. The eight victims are in a hospital -- two in serious but stable condition.

Moscow prosecutors have charged Koptsev with attempted murder, causing premeditated bodily harm, and inciting racial or religious discord. Police found gun ammunition and a list of Moscow synagogues in his apartment.

The Israeli Embassy in Moscow said it is "extremely concerned" by the incident. Indeed, Berl Lazar (Russia's chief rabbi) cut short a trip to Israel and returned to Moscow following the attack. Lazar told reporters: "It's here. It's fascism...I am sure that gunmen will come to every home unless our society wakes up to the problem now." he added.

Borukh Gorin, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, agrees. "Fascism will come knocking at the door of every citizen if we do not take serious measures now." He added that he hopes the latest incident will send a message to the Russian authorities about the seriousness of the problem of prejudice and extremism. Human rights groups have warned that hate groups have grown substantially in recent years.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Orthodox Church condemned the attack.

Koptsev's father told "Kommersant-Daily" that his son is a quiet young man and does not belong to any political or religious organization but noted that "the stabbing is the latest in a growing series of incidents apparently involving skinheads or racist groups in Russia."