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Putin says Russia is working to free hostages in Gaza conflict

Russian President Putin chairs government meeting in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with government members via a video link in Moscow, Russia, February 7, 2024. Sputnik/Alexander Kazakov/Pool via REUTERS Purchase Licensing Rights, opens new tab
Feb 7 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin told leaders of Russia’s Jewish community on Wednesday that Moscow had achieved “specific results” in diplomatic efforts to free hostages caught up in Israel’s conflict with Hamas, Russian news agencies reported.

The agencies said Putin made the comments at a meeting with Russia’s chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, and the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities, Alexander Boroda. Putin said Russia had made use of its contacts with the political wing of Hamas.

“You know, since the situation became more tense in the Middle East, Russia has been doing everything to help people who became hostages,” Putin was quoted as saying.

“As is known, our Foreign Ministry worked through the political wing of Hamas and, on the whole, there have been specific results.”

Putin did not elaborate, according to the reported comments.

Moscow’s efforts, though directed at helping Russian nationals, also sought to help others, the president said.

“They include elderly people and their family members who survived the Holocaust,” he was quoted as saying.

“But I know, I understand, that it is vital to carry on with these efforts. And that is what we are doing.”

Russia, which has drawn closer to Israel’s arch-rival Iran since the outbreak of the nearly two-year-old Ukraine conflict, has restated its support for Palestinian statehood, and criticised Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

Moscow also has said the violence in the Middle East is a reflection of U.S. policy failures in the region.

Putin’s reference to Holocaust survivors comes a day after Russia’s foreign ministry told the Israeli ambassador, Simona Halperin, of its “negative reaction” to her criticisms of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian policy.

Authorities criticised her “unacceptable comments” in an interview with Russian newspaper Kommersant in which she said Lavrov had played down the importance of the Holocaust and that Russia was too friendly with Hamas.

Reporting by Ron Popeski
Editing by Bill Berkrot

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