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Jewish memorial vandalized in new Belarus attacks

Vandals attacked a Holocaust memorial in provincial Belarus in what Jewish leaders said was the latest in a series of anti-Semitic attacks in the ex-Soviet state this year. Cans of paint were smashed and several anti-Jewish slogans daubed on the monument in the town of Lida, 150km west of the capital Minsk, said Yakov Basin, head of a group which defends Jewish rights in Belarus. "This monument at a site where several dozen Jews were shot during the war was built only a month and a half ago. It was defiled last night," Basin told Reuters.

Belarus, a country of 10 million people shortly to become a neighbor of an expanded European Union, has been criticised for failing to clamp down on what Jewish leaders say are attacks on Jews and on cemeteries and memorials for Holocaust victims. Police in Lida launched a criminal investigation of the attack, a spokesman said. Earlier this year police stepped up security at statues and cemeteries for Holocaust victims across the country after a string of attacks on Jewish memorials.

Last month Jewish leaders accused the Belarusian Education Ministry of pursuing anti-Semitic policies after officials shut down an institute that offered a course in Jewish studies. Before World War Two, there were 400'000 Jews in Belarus, but tens of thousands were killed by the Nazis and many more left to escape Soviet anti-Semitism. Now about 100,000 remain. (Reuters, 10/16/03)

Lida is close to the Lithuanian border.

Ronald Hilton - 10.26.03