European Jews Ask Russia to Mark Holocaust Memorial Day

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European Jews asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday if his country would observe International Holocaust Day starting from next year.

The day marking the liberation of the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp in Poland on Jan. 27, 1945 is honored by many countries.

"We've submitted our proposal to Dmitry Anatolyevich [Medvedev] and await his decision," the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, told reporters after he and around 20 members met the Kremlin chief.

"It's important people realize xenophobia is horrific," said Kantor.

Kantor said in Russia the day would be renamed "Day of the Soviet Army and Liberation of Auschwitz" in order to honor the role of the Soviets in freeing the camp.

Jewish groups complain of rising anti-Semitism in Russia, but the authorities have been explicit in their condemnation of it. On a 2005 visit to Auschwitz and Polish city Krakow, then president and now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he was "ashamed" of anti-Semitism in his own country.

Medvedev's spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, said a meeting in which "they discussed a wide range of issues" took place between Medvedev and the Congress on Thursday, but she did not elaborate.

Around two million Soviet Jews died during the Holocaust, carried out by the Nazis in World War Two, although most of them were murdered or taken from countries which are not part of Russia, such as Ukraine.

While some countries mark other days in remembrance of the Holocaust, the United Nations designated Jan. 27 as an international day of commemoration in 2005.