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Jews say Belarus violating agreement on former Jewish cemetery

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2004

MINSK, Belarus (AP) Authorities in Belarus have violated an agreement to stop excavations on the former site of a Jewish cemetery and have even expanded the work, Jewish community leaders say.

Regional authorities agreed last year to stop all earth-moving work at the soccer stadium in the town of Grodno, 170 miles west of Minsk. The stadium had been built over a Jewish cemetery dating back to the 18th century and contained graves of Jews who died during the Nazi occupation.

The renovations were disturbing graves, leaving bones in piles of dirt on the street until Jewish leaders complained and officials pledged no further digging during reconstruction.

Yuri Dorn, the president of Belarus' Jewish Religious Association, said last week that ''not one of the points of the agreement'' has been fulfilled.

Another Jewish leader, Dmitry Paznyak, said construction at the site had increased, with the ground being prepared for seven new facilities including a playing field and gymnastics hall. He said huge beams were being punched into the soil.

A spokeswoman for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Natalya Petkevich, said ''there is no conflict'' and declined to comment further.

About 28,000 Jews live in Belarus, a mostly Slavic nation of 10 million that was home to a substantial Jewish minority before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Some 800,000 Jews were killed in Belarus by the Nazis, and many left the country after the 1991 Soviet collapse.



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