Former refusenik makes landmark speech at Russian parliament

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June 26, 2017 13:05

Edelstein will also tour important sites from his life as a Prisoner of Zion during the Soviet Union.

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Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. (photo credit:KNESSET SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will become the first Israeli official to address the upper house of the Russian parliament this week – a historic first that holds even greater significance as he was a Prisoner of Zion in the Soviet Union.

“This is a special trip and there is great excitement about it,” Edelstein said on Monday.

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“The goal is to further develop the excellent ties between our countries, especially the connections between the Knesset and the Russian parliament. They’re better than ever, with excellent cooperation in different areas and deep friendship.”

Edelstein and a Knesset delegation are set to depart early Tuesday morning for Moscow, where the speaker will hold meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; his counterpart in the upper house, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko; the chairman of the Duma, the lower house, Vyacheslav Volodin; and Russian Jewish leaders.

Edelstein said he “can’t ignore the symbolism, which just a few years ago could have seemed like a mirage, that someone who was a prisoner in the Soviet Union would stand on the stage of the parliament in Moscow and speak in Hebrew as the speaker of the Israeli Knesset.”

He will open his Wednesday speech to the Federation Council in Hebrew before continuing in Russian.

In addition, Edelstein plans to tour important sites from his life in Moscow, including the home he lived in when, as a clandestine Hebrew teacher, he was arrested on trumpedup drug charges; the court in which he was convicted; and the Butyrka Prison, the transit jail he was sent to before the gulag.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov and MK Yoel Razbozov of Yesh Atid will join him on his trip, as will Knesset director-general Albert Sacharovich.

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