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Russia to deport Siberia’s chief rabbi over ‘espionage’

Court rejects appeal by Chabbad-Lubavitch emissary Asher Krichevsky against his deportation, finds him guilty of “engaging in activities that constitute threat to Russian Federation, its citizens.”

Railway station in Omsk, Russia, in southwest Siberia. Credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
Railway station in Omsk, Russia, in southwest Siberia. Credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.

A Russian court has ordered Siberia’s Chief Rabbi Asher Krichevsky deported, along with his wife and six children for alleged espionage.

The court in Omsk, the second-largest city in Siberia, rejected an appeal by Krichevsky following a closed-door deliberation.

Krichevsky appealed the court’s decision last month when he had his residency permit revoked. A reason for the decision was not provided at the time.

Israeli-born, Krichevsky has lived in Russia for the past 13 years. He also serves as the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Omsk.

A previous effort was made to deport the rabbi in 2014, which he successfully appealed. At the time, the Interior Ministry tried to revoke Krichevsky’s license to hold meetings in the country, citing concerns for the health of the synagogue’s congregants after he was ostensibly found with illegally produced alcohol and expired meat at a kosher store. Regional traffic police also accused the rabbi’s wife of traffic violations.

Shortly after he was accused, Krichevsky said one of the main difficulties he faced was providing kosher food to religious Jews.

“We need to sell milk from Israel and chicken and meat from Moscow,” he said in an interview with a local media outlet. “All of the food is transferred to refrigerators, but I do not stand next to the counter, and I do not manage the store. I cannot track everything, and it could be that something had been lying around for a long time,” he said.

Krichevsky was cleared of all charges at the time when the court learned he had not been involved in the sale of food at the kosher supermarket. As for the alleged traffic violations, his wife had never obtained a Russian driving license, and a hired driver had been behind the wheel at the time.

This time, however, Krichevsky was charged with much graver crimes.

The Federal Migration Service accused the rabbi of engaging in activities that constitute a threat either to the Russian Federation or its citizens, in other words, espionage.

Omsk residents were shocked by the charges.

“We have been friends of the family for years, and I never heard one bad word from them about Russia. They were always friends of the regime,” said the daughter-in-law of Omsk’s former mayor.

According to various reports, one of Russia’s intelligence agencies provided the sensitive material used as evidence against Krichevsky in the trial.

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