Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's political party, "Yadinaya Rasiya" (United Russia), will open a branch in Israel, marking the first time ever that a Russian party will have an official mission in the country.
Likewise, Israel's ruling party, Kadima, is slated to open its own branch in Moscow. The party already has offices operating in France and the United States. The move is aimed at boosting the party's support among Russian-speaking voters who are eligible to vote in their native country's elections and mostly tend to back Putin's party.
Nonetheless, the move has aroused criticism within some circles in Kadima. Some party members question the wisdom of forming an alliance with Russia's ruling party in light of the escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over the recent Russian-Georgian hostilities.
Kadima party functionaries familiar with the initiative told Haaretz that even though it is acceptable for political parties to form "sister party" relationships along the lines of the Socialist International, they view as problematic the forming of such a union with a party viewed by many as totalitarian in nature.
Last week, a top Kadima official responsible for enlisting the support of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and who is now performing a similar function for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's campaign, departed for Russia.
The official, Nada Chozoy, met with the chairman of the Duma's constitution committee, Vladimir Pligin, to finalize details of the arrangement. Although the two sides initiated the discussions more than one year ago, it was only in recent weeks that talks advanced to the implementation stage.
An aide to MK Yoel Hasson, who chairs the World Kadima movement, said the idea for forming an affiliation agreement with Putin's party was hatched well before the outbreak of fighting in Georgia. Hasson said he sees no difference between opening a Kadima branch in Moscow and the presence of Likud and Labor Party branches in other parts of the world.