President Reuven Rivlin today (Wednesday), on the first day of his official visit to Russia, met with President Putin at the Kremlin, lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and visited the Russian National Library.
Before their meeting, Presidents Rivlin and Putin delivered brief media statements. President Putin welcomed President Rivlin and said, “Mr. President, I welcome you with all of my heart on your arrival to Russia, and I am pleased to receive the President of the State of Israel here. The relationship between Israel and Russia has a long history. In Israel live around a million and a half people from the former Soviet Union, who speak Russian, know Russian culture, and have a Russian mentality. They maintain ties with friends and family who remained in Russia, and this adds something very special to our relations. In addition, the number of Russian pilgrims who visit Israel is increasing each year. We thank Israel for returning to us, holy sites which were once under our control. There are a range of other issues which we will speak about in our meeting, such as trade and economic cooperation, as well as security in the region. We have also spoken by phone with the Prime Minister of Israel, and we have agreed to speak further on these issues.”
In response, President Rivlin said, “Mr. President, thank you for your warm welcome. It is an honor for me to be here with you in your beautiful country. Israel and Russia have a long history. We enjoy cooperation in a range of fields, and we also both know what it means to have to deal with terror and fundamentalism. As a Jew, I want to say that we will never forget the Russian people and the Red Army for their victory over the Nazis. Around the world, many survivors of the Holocaust remember that the first soldiers they met on their liberation were the soldiers of the Red Army. I thank you again for the invitation and I look forward to our meeting, we have many important issues to discuss.”
Earlier in the day, President Rivlin was welcomed with a guard of honor at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, where President Rivlin laid a wreath and the military band played the Israeli national anthem (Hatikva).
From there, the President went on together with his wife, Mrs. Nechama Rivlin, to visit the Russian National Library where he was shown some of their extensive collection of Jewish texts and documents from the 15th and 16th Centuries, which included many Jewish prayer books and holy texts. The President was also shown around the library’s archives where he was shown how the texts are preserved. The President commented that Israel was ready to assist in any way with the preservation of the collection.
Tomorrow, President Rivlin is due (09:30 Israel) to visit the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, dedicated to the memory of the Russian Jewish community throughout history up until the fall of the Berlin Wall. He is then due to meet with members of the Jewish community (10:30 Israel).
Later, (12:00 Israel) President Rivlin is scheduled to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia. President Rivlin will then to go on to hold a working meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (14:00).