YULI EDELSTEIN prays at the Western Wall after his release from the Russian gulag in 1987.
(photo credit: KNESSET SPEAKER YULI EDELSTEIN'S OFFICE)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a former prisoner of conscience in the Soviet Union, will address the Federation Council in Moscow next month, 30 years after he was released from the gulag.
“This is a special trip and there is great excitement about it,” Edelstein said Monday. “We can’t ignore the symbolism of something that could have been considered a mirage not that many years ago, that someone who was a prisoner in the Soviet Union will stand on the stage of the parliament in Moscow and give a speech as the speaker of the Knesset of Israel.”
Edelstein was denied permission to move from the Soviet Union to Israel in 1977, and became one of the most prominent refuseniks.
He clandestinely taught Hebrew and was arrested on trumped-up drug charges in 1984. Edelstein spent nearly three years in Siberian gulags and was released in 1987, making him one of the last prisoners of Zion to be freed.
Edelstein plans to revisit sites with personal meaning to him in Moscow, including where he was active as a refusenik, where he was held before being sent to the gulag, the court where he was tried, and others.
The Knesset Speaker’s trip to Moscow on June 27-29 follows a visit from Valentina Matviyenko, Chairwoman of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, to the Knesset in February.
Edelstein is also expected to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the two are likely to discuss Russian influence in the Middle East.
“Our goal is to further develop the excellent ties between our countries, especially the ties between the Knesset and the Russian Parliament,” Edelstein said.
“They are better than ever, with excellent cooperation in different areas and deep friendship.”
MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) and Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid), as well as Knesset Director-General Albert Sacharovich, will join Edelstein on the trip.