The newspaper Izvestia has launched another round of accusations of anti-Semitism against the governor of Krasnodar Krai, Nikolai Kondratenko. (Izvestia, March 24) Earlier this month, the newspaper published the text of a virulently anti-Semitic speech, which, it said, the governor had delivered to a youth rally in the North Caucasus republic. (Izvestia, March 4) The moderately liberal Moskovskie novosti came, rather surprisingly, to Kondratenko’s defense, publishing on March 8 the "real" text of Kondratenko’s speech. This purported to show that, far from vilifying "Yids" and "Zionists" as alleged in Izvestia’s text, Kondratenko had told the young people that "epithets such as ‘Yid’ and ‘Zionist’ have no place in the lexicon of a civilized person." (Moskovskie novosti, March 8) The matter is of public interest because Kondratenko was on the short list of candidates named by Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov as likely to figure in the shadow cabinet being put together by the opposition. Zyuganov identified Kondratenko as a likely deputy prime minister in charge of the economy. (See the Monitor, March 9)
In its March 24 issue, Izvestia returns to the attack. This time it reports on a press conference Kondratenko gave in the wake of an apparently racially motivated attack on a family of Meskhetian Turk refugees living in Krasnodar Krai. Kondratenko said he had reason to believe the attack was a provocation instigated by U.S. secret agents and "their fifth column in Moscow" in order to destabilize the strategically sensitive North Caucasus region. According to Izvestia, Kondratenko went on to defend his opposition to Zionism. He promised to continue his campaign against it. (Izvestia, March 24) Whatever the truth about Kondratenko’s views, it is clear that ethnic relations in Krasnodar Krai are a tinderbox. Violence on a wide scale could be ignited at any moment.
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