Putin to meet with Naama Issachar’s mother in Jerusalem

Issachar, 26, was sentenced in October to 7.5 years in a Russian prison for allegedly possessing 9.5 grams of cannabis in her luggage, while on a stopover in Moscow on her way from India to Israel.

Yaffa and Naama Issachar (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yaffa and Naama Issachar
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Yaffa Issachar, mother of the American-Israeli serving time in a Moscow prison on drug charges, a Kremlin aide said on Wednesday.
Netanyahu and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem will also participate in the meeting on Thursday, Putin aide Yuri Ushakov told Russian state news agency TASS.
Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested last April and sentenced in October to 7.5 years in a Russian prison for 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; talks have been taking place at the highest levels toward that goal. Russian media has reported that Putin is favorably considering a pardon.
Ushakov did not answer reporters’s 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 The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv that Putin could pardon Issachar on Wednesday or Friday.
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 things. The two met again in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Diplomatic sources have said that too much public pressure could harm the efforts to release Issachar, which explains Gamliel’s reticence to further describe the meeting. The young woman’s family also asked activists protesting for her release to keep a low 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 Russian Orthodox organizations over property in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Justice Ministry agreed on December 30 that ownership of the Alexander Courtyard in the Christian Quarter would be transferred to Russia, according to a document published by Maariv.
Russia has long demanded ownership of the courtyard, separate from the capital’s Russian Compound, where Moscow also has made claims to property.
The Alexander 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. Czar Alexander II bought the land on which it was built in 1859.
Entrance to the Alexander Nevsky Church, Jerusalem (Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)Entrance to the Alexander Nevsky Church, Jerusalem (Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
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 of Jewish ancestry. The other is the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, whose chairman, Sergei Stepashin, was prime minister of Russia before Putin, and is an ally of the Russian president.
Stepashin has called the other society an impostor, and demanded control over the historic courtyard for the past decade.
Then-Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev sent an official request to Israel in 2015 to settle the issue of the land’s ownership, but the Justice Ministry had not make a decision for years after – until three weeks ago.
Anna Barsky/Maariv contributed to this report.