Russia is moving to shut down the agency that handles immigration to Israel amid divisions in Ukraine

Russia has threatened to shut down a major Jewish agency promoting immigration to Israel amid tensions between the two nations over the invasion of Ukraine.

According to a statement from Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, where the case will be heard on July 28, the Ministry of Justice intends to liquidate the national branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The court’s website does not specify what laws the nonprofit had broken, and Russia’s Justice Ministry, which requested its dissolution on July 15, did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

However, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the agency’s dissolution was linked to a breach of “compliance with Russian legislation,” though he declined to give further details at a news conference on Friday.

His comments came after acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement on Thursday that a delegation comprising representatives from his office and several other ministries would travel to Russia for talks ahead of the hearing on the agency, which is operating in coordination with his government .

Lapid accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine when he was foreign minister in April.

Established in 1929, the Jewish Agency or Sochnut was instrumental in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

It was banned by the Soviet Union, where state-sanctioned anti-Semitism barred Jews from many jobs and schools. Yuri Kanner, the president of the Russian Jewish Congress, told NBC News on Friday that shortly after the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989 an office was opened in Russia.

Since then, it has helped advance Israel’s Law of Return, which states that any Jewish person, or a person with one or more Jewish grandparents, has the right to settle in Israel and obtain citizenship. hundreds of thousands of People have resettled from Russia.

A welcoming committee presents flowers to Soviet Jews upon their arrival at Tel Aviv's Lod Airport, January 17, 1972.
A welcoming committee presents flowers to Soviet Jews upon their arrival at Tel Aviv’s Lod Airport, January 17, 1972.Bettmann Archive

“This is an old and respected institution,” Kanner said, adding that she had never been involved in any scandal.

NBC News has reached out to the agency for comment.

Some, including Nachman Shai, Israel’s diaspora affairs minister, said the move was punishment for Israel’s stance on the war in Ukraine.

“Russian Jews are not being held hostage for the war in Ukraine,” he tweeted Thursday. “The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on the war is deplorable and offensive.”

Professor Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow at London think tank Chatham House, also described the move as a “warning shot” by Russian President Vladimir Putin “to send a message to Israel” via Ukraine.

“From the beginning, Israel has tried to steer an almost impossible line,” he said.

Relations deteriorated further in May after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler was Jewish when asked about claims his country was trying to “denazify” Ukraine. At the time, Lapid called Lavrov’s testimony “unforgivable and scandalous and a terrible historical mistake.”

Given the close military cooperation between Russia and Israel in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Mekelberg said Israel “does not want to attack Russia directly, criticize too much, or openly support Ukraine. At the same time, it saw reasons to support Ukraine, NATO and the United States, its closest ally.”


As a result, he said Israel was “stuck in the middle and it was never going to work, not with something this big.”

The court’s decision “is going to be really important for Russian-Israeli relations,” said Kanner of the Russian Jewish Congress.

Inside Russia, he said the case would “certainly spur aliyah” or the repatriation of Jewish people to Israel.

“I’ve been watching this for a long time,” he says. “Usually Aliyah waves are associated with some form of bad news.” Russia is moving to shut down the agency that handles immigration to Israel amid divisions in Ukraine

Fry Electronics Team

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