In Jerusalem, Putin Tells Mother of Israeli Jailed in Russia: 'Everything Will Be Okay'

Russian president, in Israel for World Holocaust Forum, does not officially say he will pardon Naama Issachar despite family's hopes that he would

Noa Landau
Bar Peleg
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and Naama Issachar's mother in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and Naama Issachar's mother in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020.
Noa Landau
Bar Peleg

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in Israel for the World Holocaust Forum on Thursday, said in a joint press statement alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "everything will be okay" regarding the case of a jailed Israeli woman held in Russia on drug charges. 

Putin made the statement after he met with Yaffa Issachar, the mother of 26-year-old Naama who has been sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for carrying hashish into the Moscow airport en route to Israel from India. 

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Hijacking the Holocaust for Putin, politics and powerCredit: Haaretz Weekly Ep. 57

>> Read more: Live updates: World Holocaust Forum in Israel ■ Putin wants historic gestures from Netanyahu, not military cooperation, to release jailed Israeli | Analysis

Sources in the Israeli prime minister's office said that significant progress on the matter was achieved Thursday "thanks to the close and personal relations between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin." The sources noted that Netanyahu had brought up the subject with the Russian leader on seven separate occasions. 

Issachar's family had expressed hope that Putin would announce he will pardon their daughter and release her from prison, but he did not make such a statement.

Naama Issachar gestures during an appeal hearings in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, December 19, 2019
Naama Issachar gestures during an appeal hearings in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ AP

According to one of Issachar's attorneys she is expected to be transferred in the coming days to a transitional prison, after which she will be moved to a women's' prison 200 kilometers away from Moscow. The attorney said this is standard procedure, and has nothing to do with Putin's remarks about Issachar and the ongoing developments regarding her release.

In an interview that was broadcast on Russian television, Naama said that "When I saw mom on TV with so many important people…I was so moved when he [Putin] told my mother that everything is going to be okay with my wonderful family."

Naama added that "I'm still here, but I believe his words. If he says everything is going to be okay, it will be."      

Last week, Netanyahu said he was "optimistic" after discussing the release of Issachar with Putin, amid reports of a breakthrough in talks. 

Issachar's high-profile imprisonment was seen as a bargaining chip in efforts to prevent the extradition of Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov, who was held in Israel but turned over to the United States in November. 

Burkov plans to plead guilty to some charges against him in U.S. federal court this month, thus changing his original statement, his lawyer, Greg Stambaugh, meanwhile told the TASS news agency. The IT specialist was arrested in Israel in 2015 for extradition to the United States on charges related to widespread credit card fraud. 

In October, before Burkov's extradition, Haaretz reported that Russia had pressured Israel multipe times to release him in exchange for Issachar. 

The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement Thursday that the conversation between Netanyahu and Putin "was warm and practical, strengthening the premier's optimism" that the release of Naama Issachar is near. 

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