With Netanyahu in Moscow, Russia Frees Israeli Jailed Over Drug Charges

MOSCOW – Russia freed Thursday an Israeli-American woman jailed over drug charges in a high-profile case, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Moscow. 

Twenty-six-year-old Naama Issachar was sentenced for seven and a half years in prison last year, but was granted pardon on Wednesday by Russian President Vladmir Putin, after serving ten months.

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Netanyahu arrived in Moscow on Thursday morning, and Issachar is set to return to Israel later on the same day on board the prime minister's plane.

Naama IssacharAFP

Speaking before their meeting at the Kremlin, Netanyahu thanked the Russian leader for pardoning Issachar and said "everyone is excited" by it.

Netanyahu also said the visit, just over a month before Israel's March 2 election, "signals further approachment in our relations," adding that Putin is the first foreign leader he meets since U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East peace proposal on Tuesday. "I would like to get insight from you, and see how we can join forces for peace."

Putin said Russia and Israel have made progress "on several bilateral issues," without specifying further, adding that he granted Issachar pardon "mostly thanks to her mother, but we must remember she did commit a felony."

Issachar's mother, Yaffa, said while waiting for Israeli Foreign Ministry officials to pick her up to reunite with her daughter that she is "waiting to finally see Naama, put my arms around her. Thank God, and thank you everybody for all you've done."