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      Jewish Agency: No Board Meetings in Russia

      Russia put up a last-minute roadblock to stop the Jewish Agency from holding a board meeting that has been planned for more than three months.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 2/4/2010, 3:55 PM / Last Update: 2/4/2010, 9:03 PM

      Israel news photo

      The Jewish Agency is blaming the Russian government for the disintegration of its plan to showcase its programs in the former Soviet Union by holding its upcoming board meeting in St. Petersburg.

      The agency's chairman, former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, had announced last fall that it would hold meetings in Russia in 2010 in order to give board members a first-hand look at the projects it operated there.

      But two weeks ago, the Jewish Agency for Israel received word about “some outstanding issues regarding the legal status for the Jewish Agency in Russia. We immediately submitted all the required documentation and have since been waiting for an official response,” explained the agency in a letter sent Tuesday to its 120-member board.

      According to the Israeli Embassy in Moscow, the legal status of the Jewish Agency “is not adequate for convening a meeting of the Board of Governors,” the letter stated. Apparently the Russian government seized on the discrepancy between the registration of the Jewish Agency in Russia as a local non-governmental agency, and the board meeting as an international event.

      The change in venue for the upcoming meeting means cancellation of a charter flight from Israel to Russia, as well as a change in arrangements for accommodations for many of the 200 registered participants who were intending to make the trip from Jerusalem to St. Petersburg. Other changes in travel plans and accommodations will be necessary as well.

      The meeting has been rescheduled to take place instead from February 21 to 23 in Jerusalem.

      Sharansky has been working to rejuvenate the agency's programs in Russia at a time when a number of its programs in the region have had to be downsized or eliminated entirely due to the global economic crisis.