Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau were slated to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the release of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the grand rabbi of the Chabad Hassidic sect, from Soviet prison.
The Israeli rabbis will be joined by Alexander Boroda, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and a delegation from the Brussels-based Rabbinical Center of Europe, according to a report on the hassidic shturem.net website.
Spokesmen for Yosef and Lau confirmed that the rabbis will indeed meet with Putin.
Following the ceremony in Moscow, a delegation will travel to attend a Holocaust memorial ceremony in Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea, Shturem reported.
Moscow annexed the Ukrainian territory in March.
Both Yosef and his Ashkenazi counterpart, Rabbi David Lau, the son of current Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, have denied that they will go to the Sevastopol ceremony despite previous claims by organizers.
Lau and Yosef denied any knowledge of the event, with Lau’s assistant calling it a “scam.”
“No one invited him,” the assistant said. “He would never go there. It’s crazy.”
The memorial ceremony has been termed a “provocation” by a senior Jewish communal leader in Kiev who spoke to The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity.
Lazar confidant Rabbi Boruch Gorin told the Post that local Chabad Rabbi Benjamin Wolf was organizing the ceremony.
However, Wolf told the Post that he was “not involved in it and I have not, as of yet, received details about it.”
A spokeswoman for the organizers told the Post that the event would have “an international impact.”