Russian President Valdimir Putin
landed at the Ben Gurion Airport on Monday where he was greeted by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and an IDF honor parade. During his visit Putin inaugurated a memorial in Netanya for Soviet troops killed in World War II.
He later met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Lieberman and National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror at the prime minister's residence.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by President Shimon Peres, Minister Lieberman, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, ministers Yuli Edelstein, Sofa Landver and Stas Misezhnikov. The Russian delegation also includes Russia's agriculture, labor and social defense ministers.
Netanyahu and Putin in Jerusalem (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)
"The white rock dove symbolizes the triumph of good and peace," Putin told a crowd of 600. "May these values always serve as the basis for friendship between our nations."
He added, "I've seen a lot of monuments around the world but this will be a permanent reminder of the heroism of an entire generation that fought and sacrificed itself for all mankind. The Holocaust is history's blackest page and such acts cannot be tolerated. The Red Army put an end to those atrocities."
Putin further noted, "Here in the Holy Land, this beautiful country, we know that peace can be fragile and we must ensure that the Nazis' doctrine of crime stay behind."
The Russian president thanked Israel's prime minister, president and the monument's creators.
"This monument is a beacon of hope," Peres said, "Russia who so greatly helped win the war is the same Russia that can help peace in the Middle East."
Putin and Lieberman at Ben Gurion Airport (Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO)
The president stressed Russia's involvement in the international dialogue with Iran and said that men's dignity will not be trampled over again. "I am sure that as a fighter against fascism Russia will not allow similar threats. Not an Iranian threat or Syrian bloodshed."
Peres also took the opportunity to extend his wishes to Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Morsi. "We will honor the peace between us, because peace is the real triumph for both our nations. Peace is the triumph of children everywhere."
Putin and Peres in Netanya (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at an Independence faction meeting that "Russia is a very important world power, a country that played a very important role in Syria's history in the past few years and that is why it will play a key role in the shaping of post-Assad Syria." Barak also stressed Russia's importance in "the international effort vis-à-vis Iran in terms of sanctios and diplomacy."
The erection of the monument was initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The initiative is the brainchild of former Netanyahu advisor Dina Margolin and was first conceptualized during Netanyahu's visit to Moscow.
Monument for Soviet troops in Netanya (Photo: Eduard Stern)
"The Russians were looking for a base to unite Belarus, Ukraine and Russia," Margolin said. "They have little in common but they all share the issue of World War II. The Soviet Union lost some 30 million people in this war."
Russia launched a global campaign to remind the world that the war could not have been won without the help of Soviet soldiers.
Polina Garaev contributed to this report