Shmais.com, a prominent Crown Heights-based Chabad website, reports:
SHMAIS.com is horrified to have learned that 13 Lubavitcher Bochurim including some Talmidim HaShluchim from the Yeshiva in Rostov were arrested on Friday and then held under inhumane conditions in jail.
9:41AM UPDATE: SHMAIS.com has learned that the story started a few weeks ago after Tishray when Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Leima Wilhelm and Menahel Gashmi R' Veshedsky were refused entry back into Russia.
9:55am UPDATE: On Thursday Russian police came to Yeshiva and confiscated all the Bochurim's passports.
10:01am UPDATE: On Friday the police came and arrested all the Bochurim. The Bochurim under 18 were released while the others were interrogated till after Shabbos had already come in. The Russians wanted to transfer the Bochurim on Shabbos and the boys refused and instead walked to their "destination."
10:09am UPDATE: Rabbi Levi Shemtov to the rescue. SHMAIS.com has further learned that Rabbi Levi Shemtov of Washington, DC worked all day Friday using his contacts in the American Government. The result was that America’s Deputy Ambassador got on the case and although it was a holiday weekend in Russia was able to get permission from the Foreign Ministry to allow America’s Consul General to fly from Moscow to Rostov, where he met with the Bochurim and arranged that they could leave Russia on Motzei Shabbos.
10:15AM UPDATE: Behashgocha Protis, two of the older Bochurim from the Yeshiva were in another city on Mivtzoim and were saved from the entire ordeal!
10:21AM UPDATE: The 13 Bochurim were held over Shabbos is a cell 8x15 that is meant for 4 people! There were two wooden slabs in the cell and a hole in the floor that was meant to be a bathroom. When the Bochurim finally got food at 2:00am on Shabbos morning most of them were so nauseous from the conditions that they couldn’t even eat!
10:23 UPDATE: As crazy as it may sound the “official” reason being given for the arrest is that the Bochurim failed to register within 3 days of their arrival to Russia.
10:27am UPDATE: On Motzei Shabbos the arrested Bochurim were brought back to the Yeshiva where they and the other Bochurim were given 30 minutes to pack up all their belongings. They were then taken to the border and went to Dontesk, Ukraine where they are staying in a hotel until 10:00pm tonight when they have a flight to Israel.
11:13am UPDATE: The Bochurim were informed by the Russians that they would not be allowed back into the country for 5 years!
A Conspicuous Absence?
It seems Chabad's 'chief rabbi' of Russia Berel Lazar was not involved (or was not successfully involved) in helping these students.
Also note that Putin barred Rabbis Wilhelm and Veshedsky (is this the Rabbi Veshedsky who used to teach at HaDar HaTorah? Or is it a son or a nephew? Does anyone know?) from reëntry to the country, just as he barred Rabbi Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow, two years ago.
Chabad's Fall From Grace?
But, as was reported last month, Rabbi Goldschmidt is back in favor and Rabbi Lazar, it seems, has fallen out of Putin's good graces.
The arrest and deportation of these students, and the treatment of their rabbis just weeks ago, seems to confirm how far Lazar and Chabad have fallen.