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Jewish Cemetery Desecrated in Central Russia

Moscow, July 16 (RFE/RL) -- A report today says that vandals have desecrated several tombs at a Jewish cemetery in the central Russian town of Tambov.

Itar-Tass news agency says a number of Jewish tombstones were overturned and swastikas daubed on them. A slogan painted on one stone declared that "The Nazis are alive."

Tambov, some 400 kms southeast of Moscow, is a major Communist Party stronghold in Russia's conservative farming region.

A regional lawmaker and Jewish community activist, Yakov Farber, told Itar-Tass that this was city's fourth desecration of Jewish tombs in recent years. Farber said he suspected a neo-fascist group of being responsible for the desecrations.

Security officials in Tambov denied any such groups existed in the city. However, Itar-Tass reported that Mayor Valery Koval, a liberal, has called on the nationalist Russian Party to exercise restraint in its comments on ethnic and religious matters.

Anti-semitism is still widespread in Russia, although Russian Jews have had religious freedom and social equality since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its tacit anti-Jewish discrimination.