Putin weighing up Naama Issachar release before Israel visit - report

The conversation "strengthened the prime minister's optimism that the matter of Naama Issachar's release is progressing towards a solution."

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R)
Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering pardoning jailed Israeli, Naama Issachar, on the eve of his visit to Israel next week, Russian media reported on Thursday.
Russian news site Kommersant reported that Putin has not ruled out a pardon for Issachar.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was optimistic about Issachar being released from prison, following a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
The conversation “strengthened the prime minister’s optimism that the matter of Naama Issachar’s release is progressing towards a solution,” the Prime Minister’s Office statement read.
The leaders discussed the 26-year-old Israeli-American, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for alleged possession of 9.5 grams of cannabis, which she denies. The Russian authorities said they found the drugs in her luggage when she was on a stopover in Moscow en route from India to Israel.
Netanyahu and Putin also discussed “regional developments,” the message said.
The Kremlin’s readout did not mention Issachar. It said Putin and Netanyahu discussed “a number of topical issues” ahead of Putin’s visit to Israel next week to participate in the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, emphasizing the importance of not distorting the history of World War II.
The report cited anonymous government sources that said they would like the pardon to be “a two-way street,” but the Israeli could be pardoned on humanitarian grounds.
Similarly, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel said during a visit to Moscow that following her meetings with Russian officials, she assessed that Israel should focus on a humanitarian pardon.
“Only a request for a goodwill gesture, with a positive approach, will help bring senior Russian officials to the cause of her release,” she stated.
Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian special presidential envoy for the Middle East, expressed disappointment to Gamliel that “other Israeli politicians made public statements, were anti-Russian and connected the matter to antisemitism in Russia.”
Issachar’s mother, Yaffa, said she is now optimistic and is “asking Putin with all my heart to act as a true friend to Israel and the Jewish people – and a leader of a world power – and free my Naama back to her home in Israel.”
Netanyahu officially requested that Putin pardon Issachar last month. The Russian leader is set to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem next week, and Netanyahu has been pushing for Issachar to be released by then.
President’s Residence Director-General Harel Tubi said President Reuven Rivlin plans to bring up Issachar in his meeting with Putin. Netanyahu is expected to do so, as well.
Earlier this week, Netanyahu sent a letter to Issachar in his name and that of his wife, Sara, “from the depths of our hearts,” saying that he is “committed to bringing [her] home soon.”