US-Israeli Woman Freed by Moscow, Reportedly in Exchange for a Church
31 January, 2020

U.S.-Israeli citizen Naama Issachar, recently sentenced to a 7.5-year prison term in Moscow, has been released following diplomatic maneuvers by the Israeli government.

Issachar has been detained in Russia since April 2019. She was accused of carrying more than nine grams of hashish during a stopover in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while flying from India to Israel. 

This is a disproportionately heavy punishment to be handed out to an Israeli young woman with no criminal record, who was on a transfer flight at the Moscow airport on her way to Israel,” said the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

However, Israeli media reports have alleged that Issachar’s freedom was not fully without cost – the Israeli government assisted in granting a request by the Russians for ownership of an Orthodox Christian church in Jerusalem. The “Alexander’s Courtyard” in Jerusalem, near the iconic Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Russian authorities have been in negotiations for ownership of this territory since 2015.

An earlier claim from Israeli media, according to official Israeli sources, has been that Issachar’s freedom was first bartered for via Russia’s request to exchange her for Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov. Burkov was imprisoned on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering for selling stolen credit cards. The Israeli authorities refused this offer, and Burkov has since been extradited to the United States where he has pled guilty to a number of charges.