Kremlin considering ways to crack down on extremism

Little is known about the specifics of the 100-minute conversation. But it is clear that at least one of the participants in the meeting — Vitaly Malkin of the Russian Credit Bank — raised the issue of Russia's negative image abroad, saying that solving this problem alone would attract more foreign investment and could contribute to economic improvement.

Russia, with a sinking currency and a rising debt, is seeking international aid to help buttress the economy.

The problem of Russia's rising extremism apparently was addressed in this context.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said, "The struggle against nationalism, Nazism and xenophobia is an absolutely timely theme."

He said the Yeltsin administration will "treat the issue seriously because the actions of the new breed of brown shirts cause growing concern" and ways should be found to "nip such actions in the bud."

Russian Jewish groups as well as police believe that neo-Nazis may have been behind last month's bombing of a Lubavitch synagogue in Moscow. The blast ripped through the synagogue in Moscow's Marina Roscha neighborhood, injuring two and causing a partial collapse of the building's wall.

Skinheads also have been involved in a series of recent attacks in Moscow on foreigners of African and Asian origin, and a young Russian rabbi was beaten by skinheads in a subway station in the Russian capital last month.

Three participants in the Kremlin meeting with Yeltsin — Malkin, Vladimir Goussinsky, a media mogul, and Mikhail Fridman, who heads the financial industrial consortium Alfa Group — are major underwriters of Jewish communal life in Russia.