Taking part in the meeting on the Russian side were Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov, Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov and Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues,
I am happy to welcome you to Moscow. We met only recently, but the scale of our relations is so enormous that we need to meet frequently.
I remember your invitation to visit Israel on the occasion of unveiling a monument to the defenders of Leningrad during the Great Patriotic War.
We highly appreciate your policy on commemorating the Red Army soldiers who fought against Nazism and who brought liberation to many people in Europe, including the Jewish people.
Incidentally, the so-called search groups of Russia will begin their work today. These people search for the remains of fallen Red Army soldiers who perished while fighting in Russia. These search groups consist of volunteers, those who do this difficult job because they care.
The search groups have been created in 82 Russian regions and comprise 42,000 members. They have found the remains of 120,000 Soviet soldiers and have traced the names of 6,000 fallen heroes who were considered missing.
I believe the same fate befell Israeli serviceman Zachary Baumel, who was killed in 1982 and was considered missing in action. As you may know, our military personnel and their Syrian partners helped find Zachary’s remains.
We are glad that he will receive proper military honours in his homeland. Another, purely humanitarian aspect of this case is that Zachary’s family will be able to bring flowers to his grave.
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (retranslated): Mr President, I am always happy to meet with you.
However, today I feel even more deeply moved, because you have raised a vitally important subject – the reclamation of the remains of those who were considered missing. We share this value, Mr President, as you said two years ago, when we discussed your assistance in the search for the remains of our soldiers, including Sergeant Zachary Baumel.
Your personal response was very positive then, and you instructed the Russian army to help us in this noble undertaking. This evening, the burial ceremony for Sgt
Baumel will be held in Israel. His remains will be laid to rest in the presence of his family.
Mr President, we are wholeheartedly grateful to you for your personal friendship, for your position and for the position of Russia, which shares these values with Israel.
(Speaks in Russian) Spasibo.
Vladimir Putin: As far as I know, all the genetic tests have been made. We still have the remains, which later today we will send to Israel in your presence and in accordance with military tradition.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Yes, we know. It will be a very emotional ceremony. We would like to express our gratitude to the Russian Defence Ministry and the Russian army. We will never forget their contribution, which will go down in history.
Vladimir Putin: It should be mentioned that it was a difficult mission for the special operation forces group concerned. Please, convey my best regards to the sergeant’s family.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Thank you. Zachary’s family is deeply touched. This defies words. Regrettably, Zachary’s father has passed away, and his mother is nearly 100 years old. But Zachary has a sister.
We have told them about the selflessness of the Russian soldiers who risked their lives to retrieve Zachary’s remains. His family has asked us to convey their personal gratitude to you, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.