Russia’s Justice Ministry has filed a legal appeal to a Moscow district court demanding that the Jewish Agency be removed from the list of NGOs registered in the country and end its activities in the country, Russian state media reported on Thursday.
If the court accepts the lawsuit, the decision will make it significantly more difficult for Jews to emigrate to Israel and create a serious crisis in relations between the two countries. Apart from emigration, the Jewish Agency oversees a host of educational and welfare activities in Jewish communities throughout Russia.
A letter sent from Russia’s Justice Ministry last week to the Jewish Agency accused it of violating Russian law. The first court hearing on the matter is scheduled for next Thursday, July 28.
Israeli Ambassador to Russia Alexander Ben Zvi met last week with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov about the actions against the Jewish Agency, the first time that an Israeli Foreign Ministry official intervened in the matter.
Bogdanov told Ben-Tzvi he would examine the issue and denied that the Justice Ministry’s actions are politically based. Despite Bogdanov’s words, many Israeli officials believe that the move is being carried out to signal Moscow’s dissatisfaction with Israel’s policy on the war in Ukraine.
Additionally, the move against the Agency came immediately after Yair Lapid entered the role of prime minister. According to a Channel 12 News report on Wednesday, Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov conveyed in recent closed meetings that Russia is unhappy about Lapid’s leadership due to his past harsh condemnations of the war in Ukraine. Lapid publicly stated that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are war crimes.
There are growing fears among Israeli officials and Jewish leaders that Russia may be preparing to ban emigration to Israel altogether.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)