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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patriarch Condemns Bombing

Expressing his indignation over the bombing of a Moscow synagogue, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church called on citizens and the government Friday to "think very seriously" about the attack and other recent acts of violence.

"Society must in the most decisive manner resist all of this, using the strength of the law," Patriarch Alexy II said in a statement.

A bomb exploded outside the Maryina Roshcha synagogue at about 11 p.m. Wednesday, injuring two construction workers. Several dozen young Jewish students had left the Orthodox synagogue just minutes before the blast, which blew a hole in a brick wall and shattered windows.

Jewish leaders blamed the attack on neo-Nazis, who have become increasingly visible in Moscow and accused the government of not doing enough to control them.

"Nothing has been undertaken in the country against extremism and chauvinism propagated by dozens of openly Nazi organizations and their media," an open letter from the synagogue's congregation said. "Authorities must take a clear, outspoken position, aiming to prevent a repeat of what happened."

Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, Rabbi Berel Lazar demanded that President Boris Yeltsin and his government speak out more firmly against prejudice and anti-Semitism. "We want to see a reaction from the state," Lazar said.

One of Russia's Muslim leaders, Mufti Talgat Tajutdin, also spoke out against the synagogue bombing. He called it a "terrorist act" and said it has "prompted a storm of indignation in the souls of all Russian Moslems."

"The explosion reflects mounting attempts by extremist and Nazi groups to provoke ethnic and inter-faith tensions in Russian society," Tajutdin was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Interfax reported that an anonymous caller phoned Moscow police Friday and said that Russian National Unity, or RNE, the most prominent extreme nationalist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

But RNE leader Alexander Barkashov said the group was not involved in terrorism. He suggested that the explosion was a "provocation organized by the victims themselves to raise another cry of anti-Semitism."

The reality, Barkashov said, is that Jews are becoming increasingly powerful in Russia, in both financial and government circles.

Such racist views also have been expressed by deputies in the State Duma, parliament's lower house. General Albert Makashov, a Communist deputy, was quoted by Interfax on Thursday as saying that "Jews themselves" organized the explosion.

The chairman of the Duma's security committee, outspoken Communist Viktor Ilyukhin, said the explosion could have been a reaction to the newly formed government.

"The country's government was formed as if it had forgotten that there are talented people of different nationalities. For some reason priority was bestowed on one nationality: Jews," Ilyukhin said.