(Bloomberg) — President Vladimir Putin hinted Thursday that he intends to free an Israeli woman imprisoned in Russia on drug-smuggling charges, a decision that could give a political boost to embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Putin said he told Naama Issachar’s mother, Yaffa, who was standing with him and Netanyahu in Jerusalem, that “everything will be all right.” The jailed U.S.-born Israeli army veteran “is from a good, very upstanding family,” he said, adding that the Kremlin’s human rights ombudswoman would visit Issachar in prison later in the day.
The meeting took place as Putin was in Israel along with other leaders for the fifth World Holocaust Forum. Naama Issachar, 26, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in a Russian prison in October for carrying a small amount of hashish on a transit flight via Moscow.
Her plight has become a cause celebre in Israel since she was detained in April, and resolving it could bolster Netanyahu, who’s been indicted on corruption charges and is fighting for his political survival at the country’s third election in less than a year in March.
A Kremlin foreign policy aide said earlier this week that Israel and Russia are also making progress in settling a dispute over the ownership of Russian Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem, which Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said could form part of a quid pro quo to secure Issachar’s release.
The Russian leader has previously rebuffed multiple pleas from Netanyahu for Issachar’s sentence to be commuted.
Her case for a time became entangled with that of a Russian national, Alexei Burkov, whom Israel extradited to the U.S. in November on charges including hacking and credit card fraud. Russia had offered to swap the two, according to Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician.
–With assistance from Gwen Ackerman.
To contact the reporters on this story: Andrey Biryukov in Jerusalem at firstname.lastname@example.org;Ivan Levingston in Tel Aviv at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at firstname.lastname@example.org, Tony Halpin, Mark Williams
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.