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Three Detained in Ukraine

October 12, 1999

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ A young man and two teenagers were detained on suspicion of desecrating a Jewish cemetery in central Ukraine, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

The three _ identified only as Oleksandr, 20, Bohdan, 17, and Viktoria, 16 _ could face up to three years in prison if found guilty of desecrating the graves, the Interior Ministry said, according to the daily Fakty.

Police say the suspects recently went to the cemetery in Kalynivka to drink alcohol and then began knocking down tombstones. During interrogation, the two males claimed Viktoria had started the vandalism, calling herself a member of a Satanic sect.

But Viktoria said they had begun uprooting the graves in search of gold thought to be hidden inside, Fakty said.

Ukraine’s 500,000 Jews _ one of the world’s largest Jewish communities _ have had much greater religious and cultural freedom since the 1991 Soviet collapse. Jewish groups say there is no official anti-Semitism in the country, although attacks on Jewish monuments happen occasionally.

Jews suffered systematic discrimination during the Soviet era, and many emigrated to Israel, Europe and the Untied States.

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