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Kiev Synagogue Attacked by Stone-Throwing Youths - 2002-04-14

A group of stone throwing young people has attacked the principal synagogue in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The incident occurred as police in neighboring Russia remain on alert for possible attacks by skinhead groups there.

Jewish leaders in Ukraine say about 50 young people attacked worshippers who were leaving the synagogue after evening prayers Saturday.

Several people were beaten in the attack, including one rabbi who was thrown to the ground. About 20 windows were broken.

Witnesses say the youths were shouting "Let us get the Jews!" in what Jewish leaders say was clearly an act of anti-Semitism.

The head of the synagogue, Moshe Asmman, linked the incident to the Israeli offensive against Palestinians, which has led to attacks against Jewish targets elsewhere in Europe.

But Ukrainian police say the attack was an act of hooliganism by a group of young football fans on their way home from a game. Eight youths were arrested.

Meanwhile in Russia, police are on alert for possible attacks against foreigners by ultra-rightwing skinhead groups.

The embassies of various countries, including the United States and Japan, have received an e-mail message saying that foreigners will be assaulted and even killed. The message linked the threat to the upcoming anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday on April 20, a date when neo-Nazi groups are active.

Moscow police official Sergei Shevtsov said the threat should not be underestimated, adding that special security measures will be taken.

Racist attacks have become common in Russia in recent years, especially in Moscow. Citizens of Madagascar and Kenya have been attacked recently in the city.

Last October, three foreign nationals, including an Indian and an Afghan, died when about 300 skinheads attacked a Moscow market.

Several embassies have advised their citizens to be vigilant and avoid public gatherings where skinheads might congregate.