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Russia is threatening to shutter a prominent Jewish organization, raising concerns among Jews in the country who wish to emigrate and prompting a diplomatic row between Moscow and Israel, Haaretz reported.
A Moscow court began a preliminary hearing last week after Russia’s Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit to close the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel over allegations of privacy violations because of its data collection practices.
A new court hearing will take place on Aug. 19.
Founded more than 90 years ago, the agency is affiliated with the Israeli government and is integral to helping foster Jewish identity and also assisting families to emigrate to Israel, including organizing and paying for air travel, according to the Washington Post.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more than 16,000 Russian Jews have moved to Israel amid concerns over President Vladimir Putin’s brutal campaign to “denazify” Ukraine and remove its Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid criticized the proposed shutdown, saying that it would be a “serious event with repercussions on ties.” He has sent a diplomatic delegation to Moscow.
But Russian officials countered that the Kremlin simply has legal questions and that the issue shouldn’t be “projected” onto bilateral relations with Israel.
Still, tensions between the two countries have escalated in recent months over a series of scandals including anti-Semitic remarks by Russian government officials and the forced exile of Moscow’s chief rabbi.
Russia has also expressed anger at Lapid’s condemnation of the invasion and accusations of “war crimes” committed by Moscow in Ukraine.