Israel praises Putin for returning body of missing soldier
Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel had been listed as missing along with two other Israeli soldiers after a deadly battle with Syrian forces in a Lebanese village.
Russia said it handed over the remains to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is visiting Putin five days before he is to seek a fifth term in office in a difficult election.
Baumel was buried later on Thursday at a military cemetery in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu, 69, is running in the April 9 vote despite facing potential corruption charges and experts said he hoped the Moscow visit will increase his chances of success on election day.
"Our military together with Syrian partners found the place of his burial," Putin said of Baumel.
"We are very happy that he will be able to receive the right military honours in his homeland.
Netanyahu added that Baumel's father was no longer alive. "His mother is around 100-years-old. Zachary also has a sister."
Neither Russia nor Israel have given details on how or where the remains were found.
Syrian state news agency SANA said Damascus had no details on the discovery of the corpse.
Putin said only that Syria - with which Israel has technically been at war - participated in the operation.
The return of the remains of soldiers missing in action is a highly important issue in Israel, which has fought repeated wars with its Arab neighbours since the state of Israel was established in 1948.
'Risking their lives'
The Russian defence ministry said it handed over Baumel's remains to Netanyahu in a ceremony at its headquarters.
A video released by the ministry showed the Israeli prime minister and Russian armed forces chief Valery Gerasimov laying flowers on a casket covered with an Israeli flag.
"I would like to thank you, on behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of the soldiers of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), and on behalf of the mothers and fathers of all our soldiers," Netanyahu said at the ceremony in remarks released by his office.
He also praised Russia's "enormous sacrifice" during World War II, including in "saving the Jewish people from the Nazi monster".
Putin said "it was not easy" for Russian special forces to find the remains, adding that "all the necessary genetic tests have been completed".
Putin said he valued Netanyahu's "attitude to the memory of Red Army soldiers", adding that Baumel shared the same fate as thousands of Soviet soldiers who went missing during World War II.
'We will not forget'
Baumel, who was born in the US in 1960 but immigrated to Israel, had been missings ince what is known as the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in a Lebanese village of the same name near the Syrian border. Some 20 Israeli soldiers were killed.
Tank driver Baumel and two other soldiers, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, had been listed as missing and presumed dead. The other two remain missing.
Netanyahu said he asked Putin two years ago to help in the search for the remains of the missing men.
"You personally responded and gave the order to help in this holy deed," he said, thanking the Russian leader.
"We will not forget this act, it will go down in history."
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