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Russia demands Israel hand over East Jerusalem church

A view of Church of All Nations from At-Tur (Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem on 12 October 2021 [Mustafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
A church in Jerusalem on 12 October 2021 [Mustafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett requesting that he authorise the transfer of control of the Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky in the Christian Quarter of occupied East Jerusalem to Moscow.

Israeli sources said yesterday that Israel was handling the matter, without elaborating, Haaretz reported.

Sergei Stepashin, a former Russian prime minister, announced last Friday that Putin would be sending the letter, adding: "Moscow has been working for the past five years to have the compound transferred to its control."

Stepashin is chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, which is responsible for Russian holy sites in Israel, according to Haaretz.

"We are fighting for the return of St. Alexander Nevsky, and it's a really tough one," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

READ: Remembering Israel's siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

"A situation arose with Ukraine, and Israel has acted as expected: Trying to please everyone both here and there," he added.

One Russian analyst believes Israel is wary of handing over the property at a time when Russia is being sanctioned by the West as a result of its invasion of Ukraine.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved giving Alexander's Courtyard to Russia in 2020. The move was seen as a goodwill gesture following Russia's release of Naama Issachar, an Israeli citizen arrested in 2019 after police found nine grammes of cannabis in her bags during a stopover at a Moscow airport.

The courtyard, which includes the Church of St Alexander Nevsky, is located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

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Europe & RussiaIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestineRussia
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