World Jewish News
Putin to meet with Naama Issachar’s mother in Jerusalem
22.01.2020, Israel and the World
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Yaffa Issachar, mother of the Israeli-American in a Moscow prison on drug charges, a Kremlin aide said on Wednesday.
Netanyahu and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem will also participate in the meeting on Thursday, Putin aide Yuri Oshkov told Russian state news agency TASS.
Naama Issachar, 26, was sentenced last year 7.5 years in prison in Russia for allegedly possessing 9.5 grams of cannabis in her luggage, while on a stopover in Moscow on her way from India to Israel. Netanyahu has formally requested that Putin, who will be in Israel on Thursday for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, pardon Issachar on humanitarian grounds, and talks have been taking place at the highest levels toward that goal. Russian media has reported that Putin is favorably considering a pardon.
Oshkov did not answer reporters’ questions as to what could be expected from the meeting, but said they will discuss “the humanitarian aspect of the issue.”
A Russian source told Jerusalem Post sister publication Ma’ariv that Putin could pardon Issachar on Wednesday or Friday. Diplomatic sources have said that too much public pressure could harm the efforts, which explains Gamliel’s reticence to further describe the meeting. Issachar’s family also asked activists protesting for her release to keep a lower profile, but advertisements with the message “Please President Putin, bring Naama home” appeared in Jerusalem’s Yitzhak Navon train station on Tuesday.
One step Israel may have taken to encourage Putin to release Issachar may be taking his side in a longstanding dispute between two Orthodox Christian organizations over property in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Justice Ministry agreed on December 30, 2019 that ownership of Alexander’s Courtyard in the Old City would be transferred to Russia, according to a document published by Ma’ariv.
Russia has long demanded ownership the courtyard, separate from the capital’s Russian Compound, where Moscow also has made claims to property.
Alexander’s Courtyard, which belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church and includes the Alexander Nevsky Church and several other structures, is adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Tsar Alexander III bought the land on which it was built in 1859.
After the 1917 Russian Revolution, a dispute broke out over the land between two organizations with nearly identical names. The first is the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Historic Society, led since 2004 by Nikolai Gofman-Vorontsov, a German citizen with Jewish ancestry. The other is the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, whose chairman is Sergei Stepashin, who was prime minister of Russia before Putin and is an ally of the Russian president.
Stephashin says the other society is an imposter and has demanded control over the courtyard for the past decade. Then-Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev sent an official request to Israel in 2015 to settle the matter of the land’s ownership, but the Justice Ministry did not make a decision for years after, until three weeks ago.
Last week, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdonov, who is responsible for Russian assets in Israel, among other issues. The two met again in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
By LAHAV HARKOV
Anna Barsky/Ma’ariv contributed to this report.