The Kremlin expects that the topic of a possible pardon of Israeli national Naama Issachar, who was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in Russia on drug smuggling charges (poor girl was caught with 9.5 grams of weed), will be raised during President Vladimir Putin’s “contacts with the Israeli leadership” later this week, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday.
According to TASS, when asked about the pardon, Peskov stressed, “We never announce such matters,” but acknowledged that Naama Issachar’s story was major news in Israel.
“It is highly likely that this topic will be raised during upcoming contacts with Mr. Netanyahu,” he said, and suggested it would be best to “wait and see.”
Russians can be so helpful.
Issachar was arrested last April in Moscow airport (a police dog sniffed her bag) and has been kept in jail since. According to several media outlets, her grotesque—possibly illegal—sentence, had nothing to do with the Israeli traveler, who appears to have stepped into the wrong place at the wrong time. What Russia wanted was the release of one Aleksey Burkov, an “IT freelancer” (a.k.a. “hacker”) from St. Petersburg, who was arrested back in 2015 in Israel on suspicion of serious cyber crimes, including theft of millions of dollars from credit cards and accounts belonging to American citizens. The Russians were hoping to exchange him for Issachar, but Israeli justice minister Amir Ohana had no choice but to acquiesce to American demands for an extradition. It was downhill for Naama Issachar from there.
Without a trade to offer in exchange for the young Israeli woman, the assumption on the Israeli side is that Netanyahu would be obliged to support the narrative that the Russians are currently advancing against the Poles on the actions taken by the two countries in World War II. Channel 12 speculated that Netanyahu may already be addressing the issue in his speech at Yad Vashem on Thursday. Putin will be on hand, while Polish President Andrzej Duda will be boycotting the ceremony because the Yad Vashem organizers wouldn’t let him speak. More talk for Putin, who is scheduled to speak.
TASS noted that in October 2019, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin asked the Russian president to pardon Issachar. In December 2019, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he had also raised this issue at a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Rome, when he expressed his hope the Russian president would look at a possible pardon.
Russians can be so magnanimous.