While Israeli media reports have been carrying speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely pardon Naama Issachar in the coming days, a Kremlin spokesperson sidestepped the matter on Monday.
“It is highly likely that this topic will be raised during [Putin’s] upcoming contacts with Mr. Netanyahu,” Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.
When asked if Putin was considering a pardon for the Israeli backpacker sentenced to 7.5 years for possession of a small quantity of drugs, Peskov said, “We never announce such matters.”
He said the Kremlin was aware that the issue has garnered much media attention in Israel, especially ahead of Putin’s visit to Yerushalayim on Thursday, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat held a meeting with the Issachar family on Monday to update them on progress in negotiations for Naama’s release.
Her mother, Yaffe Issachar, who just returned from Russia, has announced the cancellation of protests that had been planned for Putin’s visit.
“Because of the sensitivity of the situation, and because of the appreciation and respect I have for engaging in the negotiations for Naama’s return, and after seriously considering it – I announced a few minutes ago to the head of the fight to cancel for now all protest actions planned for the next days,” Issachar wrote in a post.
She added, “A short time ago, I landed in the country, and I would like first of all to thank you on my behalf, and on behalf of Naama, who still does not really know about your tremendous support, the activists, and the entire Israeli public. We are in a critical, delicate, and sensitive week for Naama’s fate. For months, you managed to bring public awareness of Naama’s story to a climax, raising the demand for her release to unprecedented heights. The public atmosphere you created with your own hands also led the Israeli government to act on Naama’s release, and the Prime Minister publicly pledged to do so.
“In a few days, President Putin will visit Israel, and I pray that he will answer my request and that of the entire Israeli public, and bring Naama home. I want you to understand the sensitive situation we are in. We experience a roller-coaster of rumors that change hue every few hours. It’s also a mental roller-coaster for my family and me,” Issachar wrote.