President Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union has been proceeded by unprecedented preventive measures to silence and control active Jews who wish to emigrate to Israel. The KGB fears apparently that Jewish activists should be controlled during the presence of the many foreign journalists who are covering the Nixon visit.
nearly 50 people have been taken in custody or warned to keep quiet in at least six Soviet cities. In Moscow the KGB assault began on June 19, when it was learned that about a dozen of the younger activists had planned a demonstration in Moscow’s Sovetskaya Square. Most of them were arrested at home earlier in the day. Two that escaped the net were Vladimir Davydov and Ilya Koltunov. who turned up in the square to demonstrate and were immediately arrested. Koltunov was beaten up by plain-clothesmen in the presence of uniformed police.
The KGB used cruder tactics to strike at the more prominent activists. At half past eight that morning, unidentified men started battering at the door of Vladimir Slepak’s apartment. The hammering continued for some time and then stopped. two days later, at eight in the morning, 15 uniformed police and plain-clothesmen smashed down the front door and then broke the bedroom door. Slepak was dragged out of bed and arrested. The police even came prepared to deal with Slepak’s big dog. One officer, fully padded, told Slepak that he would kill the dog if it was removed to the adjacent room.
Slepak’s younger son, 15 year old Leonid, was threatened that his ‘fingers will be broken’ if he continued contacting western correspondents from callboxes in Moscow.
Others were luckier. Vladimir Prestin missed arrest after a warning from his wife that militiamen had surrounded his apartment. Lev Gendin fled from his apartment by flitting across some rooftops. Another prominent activist, physicist, Victor Polsky, currently facing trial on a charge of dangerous driving, barricaded himself in his home.
Another group of Jews to be rounded up were those involved in the international seminar due to begin in Moscow on Monday.
many Jewish scientists believed that they would escape arrest if they left Moscow for the beginning of Nixon’s visit. they had been told by the KGB that the authorities considered the seminar to be ‘illegal’ and that visas would not be given to foreign scientists who had accepted invitations to participate.
About ten days ago Professor Mark Azbel and Dr Victor Brailovsky were arrested at Azbel’s dacha outside Moscow. Professor Alexander Voronel who had taken refuge in a friend’s apartment, was telephoned by the KGB and told that his friend would be in great danger if they had to force their way in. Voronel gave himself up.
Voronel was interrogated for up to seven hours a day three days running last week. the authorities want him to write to all the foreign participants in the seminar and persuade them that the seminar should not take place.
Dr Alexander Lunts, Voronel’s associate, was arrested at his home. The eminent sinologist, Dr Vitaly Rubin, was told that if he continued to involve himself in the organisation of the seminar he would be charged under Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code – treason to the motherland.
rubin and other scientists had previously been told that they would be charged with parasitism and face one year’s imprisonment in Siberia if thhey did not find jobs within 15 days.
Another more painless method of keeping activity at a minimum was to grant some Jews exit permits. Thus the Leningrad physicist, Dr Boris Rubinstein and the Kishinev mathematician, Professor Israel Gokhberg – both of whom had been involved in the preparations of the seminar – were given permission to leave.
Vladimir Kozlovsky who was Senator Edward Kennedy’s interpreter during his meeting with Moscow Jews, was told to leave Moscow within five days. However, his departure was made dependant, the KGB intimated, on his telling the whereabouts of the young biochemist, Alec Goldfarb, and of the eldest son of activist Vladimir Slepak, Alexander, both of who had slipped through the net.
Repression was not confined to Moscow. Arrests of Jewish activists have been reported from Odessa and Leningrad. In the Ukrainian cities of Kiev and Vinnitsa a number of prominent Jews are being kept under home arrest under Nixon’s visit is over.
In Kishinev 15 Jews were detained and imprisoned after a demonstration. Most of those arrested received between 10 and 15 days imprisonemnt. some of them have gone on hunger strike.
Sender Levinson from Bendery and Anatoly Shtarkman from Kishinev tried to hand in an appeal to the Ministry of the Interior on behalf of those jailed. Both have since disappeared.
All of the activists arrested, signed an open letter to President Nixon some two weeks ago. they pointed out that they expected no improvement in their situation from his visit and commented bitterly on a recent Nixon statement at Annapolis in which he treated Jewish emigration as an internal Soviet affair. They reminded the president of one of the cardinal principles of the American people was ‘to defend justice and the civil rights of man wherever they might be violated.’
They said that they did not want the president’s help in their struggle this time, but asked that he should not help the Soviet leaders make ‘a difficult situation into unbearable one’. They ended their letter:
We would like to inform you that the many signatories of this letter will not be able to welcome you personally and to acclaim your efforts towards the relaxation of tension, as during your visit they are expected to be residing in the hospitable cells of Moscow’s prisons.
Even the annual emigration rate of 45,000 a year quoted in the reported Kissinger-Jackson discussions was the subject of a statement. Vladimir Slepak’s wife, Masha said:
the Soviet authorities can find 45,000 a year from Georgia, Daghestan and Bukhara. Indeed they will have enough for ten years without even considering Jews from Moscow and Leningrad. The quota does not decide anything.
Jerusalem Post 30 June 1974