Russia’s Foreign Ministry has strongly rejected Israeli media reports claiming that Russian officials have taken the remains of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen out of Syria, where he was executed more than five decades ago.
Cohen infiltrated the top echelons of Syria’s leadership in the early 1960s and obtained top-secret intelligence before he was caught and publicly executed in 1965.
Israeli media reported earlier this week that a Russian delegation took Cohen’s remains out of Syria.
The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement Wednesday “resolutely refuting” the claim, which it described as a “provocation,” and that the motives for the “dissemination of such blatant misinformation” is “incomprehensible.”
It urged the Israeli media to show a more “accurate, professional and honest approach to coverage of such sensitive issues.”
The statement was tweeted by a number of Russia’s embassies around the world, including in Israel and Jordan.
On Thursday night, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a denial that Cohen’s body was found by Russian forces and will be returned to Israel.
The story of Cohen’s espionage, an embarrasment to the Syrian regime, originated with Syrian opposition groups and was then picked up by Israeli news media. Russia has over the years refused to have anything to do with efforts to recover Cohen’s body. Russian agents reportedly exposed Cohen’s true identity, then handed him over to the Syrians, who tortured and executed him.
Working undercover inside the Syrian defense establishment, Cohen provided Israel with vital intelligence from 1961-1965, including the disposition of Syrian fortifications on the Golan Heights, which helped Israel to capture the region in the 1967 Six Day War..
Last year, his widow Nadia pleaded with the government of Bashar Assad to return her husband’s remains to Israel for burial.
“I implore you, even beg of you, to release Eli’s remains. I’m 83 years old, look at us and forgive,” she said during a speech at the International Multidisciplinary Conference on the Treatment of War Injuries at the Galil Medical Center in Nahariya, where thousands of Syrians wounded in the Syrian civil war have been treated, The Jerusalem Post reported.
She said during that speech that she sent Assad letters 18 years ago, with photos of her children and grandchildren, “to soften his heart and release Eli’s body.” She said that Assad wrote back: “in due time.”
Updated Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 4:14 pm added comment