The chief rabbi of Omsk in southern Siberia, Asher Krichevsky, was ordered deported by Russian officials, according to Russian media reports.
Krichevsky, 36, was told Tuesday that he and his family — a wife and six children — have 15 days to leave Russia. The rabbi, who has Israeli citizenship, has worked in Russia as a Chabad emissary for 13 years.
The Federal Migration Service has accused Krichevsky of “illegal trading of alcohol,” Kommersant-Siberia reported Tuesday, but Krichevsky told the newspaper that he has not been told why he is losing his residency permit.
Local news organizations also reported that Krichevsky is under suspicion of spying for Israel, while others believe the decision is politically motivated.
Last month, Krichevsky was fined 2,000 rubles, or about $50, for selling kosher wine from the Chabad House without a liquor license, Kommersant reported.
Omsk Jewish leaders plan to appeal the deportation to Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling Krichevsky “an absolutely apolitical individual,” according to Kommersant. The newspaper reported, however, that the rabbi may have made anti-government comments in private conversations and that the deportation may be intended to send a message to other religious leaders.
The rabbi has 10 days to appeal the decision.
Saying that the decision to deport Krichevsky was reminiscent of “Soviet [era] anti-Semitism,” Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich told the Jerusalem Post
that he hoped that it was “not a symptom of more things to come.”
Bleich has previously accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of staging anti-Semitic provocations in Ukraine to justify his action’s in that country.
Putin has previously stated that he reserves the right to intervene in eastern Ukraine to safeguard Jews, Russian speakers and others. The United States has accused Moscow of sending troops and weapons to support separatists seeking to break away from Kiev.
Sam Sokol contributed to this report