Ahead of crucial talks in Moscow, Netanyahu views hardware used to bolster Assad
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Ahead of crucial talks in Moscow, Netanyahu views hardware used to bolster Assad

Israeli PM is one of two foreign leaders attending Victory Day events, before discussing Iranian aggression with Putin

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, on May 9, 2018. Both men are wearing the orange and black St. George ribbon (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, on May 9, 2018. Both men are wearing the orange and black St. George ribbon (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Ahead of crucial talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday attended a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square marking the 73rd anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

Netanyahu was one of two foreign leaders who attended the event, during which the Russian army also showcased military equipment used to defend the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The other foreign leader present was Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

Netanyahu headed to Moscow early Wednesday morning for urgent talks with the Kremlin about Iran’s attempt to establish itself militarily in Syria. Russia is a staunch ally of both Tehran and Damascus, and has condemned Israeli airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets.

“The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so,” Netanyahu said as he boarded his plane to Moscow. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination between the Russian military and the IDF.”

On Tuesday evening, the Israeli army urged Golan residents to ready bomb shelters and put its air defenses on high alert, after having detected “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The army’s announcement followed multiple warnings by Israeli defense officials of a potential Iranian missile strike on northern Israel and came just before US President Donald Trump announced that the United States was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

At about the same time, Israel reportedly bombed a military site linked to Iranian fighters south of Damascus, reportedly killing pro-Iranian fighters in an area previously identified as the site of a suspected Iranian military base.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, right, attend a military parade celebrating 73 years since the victory the WWII in Red Square, Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool Photo via AP)

On Wednesday morning, Netanyahu sat in the front row, close to Putin, and watched an infantry march, a procession of armored vehicles and an air force flyby consisting of more than 70 aircraft.

Weapons systems presented during the parade included the Pantsir-S1 air defense system, which is said to have intercepted many of the missiles during the US, French and UK April 14 attacks on Syrian regime targets, which came in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons on civilians.

The advanced S-400 missile defense system was also paraded, as were the Buk-M2 anti-aircraft and Tor-M2 air defense missile systems, which are currently deployed in Syria.

After the parade, Netanyahu and Putin participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Red Square. The two leaders are then set to take part in the so-called “Immortal Regiment” marches in honor of those who fought the Nazis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Later that day, the two leaders will meet at the Kremlin for bilateral talks, and Putin will then host the Israeli delegation for dinner.

Israel this year for the first time marked VE Day, stipulated by a law the Knesset passed last year. According to the legislation, Education Minister Naftali Bennett has instructed schools nationwide to teach about the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. Furthermore, the Knesset and local and national government institutions have been asked to hold commemorative events.

In a joint statement, the ambassadors to Israel of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan congratulated the Israeli people on the occasion, saying that the law the Knesset passed in July — with 53 yes votes and zero no votes — “clearly demonstrates the recognition of the decisive role of the Red Army of the multinational Soviet Union in the liberation of Europe from the unprecedented evil, and the Jews – from annihilation,” the statement read.

Ambassadors of Russia, Belarus , Kazakhstan : We sincerely congratulate you on the 73rd anniversary of the Victory over…

Posted by Embassy of Russia in Israel / Посольство России в Израиле on Tuesday, 8 May 2018

“Moreover, it is an unambiguous signal to those who falsify historical facts, whitewash Nazi butchers, and tar the victims and liberators for opportunistic political reasons,” the statement went on. “It is obvious that the assessment of that war to a large extent determines the worldview of entire states, the basis for their future, as well as attitude towards other nations.”

The three ambassadors said that the memory of the victory over Nazi Germany “has always been and will continue to be a uniting factor, a solid historical value contributing to cementing ties between Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Israel, as well as building productive interstate relations and developing cooperation in the international arena.”

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