Putin: I won't meet Hamas delegation
Russian president says he'll meet 'only' with junior Hamas members, says Hamas not seen as terrorist group according to Russian law


Itamar Eichner

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message last week to Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying he would not meet with a delegation of Hamas leaders, expected to arrive in Moscow at the start of next month, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

The Russian president added that he would meet exclusively with junior Hamas members.

Earlier, Olmert had sent a message to Putin about the upcoming meeting, through German Chancellor Angela Merkel, attempting to dissuade Putin from meeting with the Hamas delegation.

Merkel, who conducted a successful visit to Israel last month, and who has taken an aggressive stance against Hamas, agreed to transmit the message to Putin.

Israel: Hamas supports Chechen terrorist activity
She raised the issue during a phone conversation with the Russian leader, who replied by saying that Russia was obligated to the principles of the Quartet, but added that Hamas was not classified as a terrorist organization according to Russian law, therefore there was nothing preventing a meeting with Hamas chiefs, and presenting to them directly the terms of the international community.

Following the conversation, the Kremlin released a statement saying that Putin and Merkel discussed the Iranian threat and the situation in the Middle East. Merkel transmitted Putin's comments to Olmert.

Meanwhile, Israel has announced that it is sending Russia intelligence showing that Hamas supports Chechen terrorist activity against Russian targets.

The Palestinian delegation that will arrive in Moscow is the same group that arrived in Turkey last week, and is headed by Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal.

Intelligence officials briefed the government that Hamas leaders were disappointed by the level of meetings in Ankara. The meeting planned with the Turkish prime minister was cancelled following Israeli and international pressure, and Hamas leaders met with the Turkish foreign minister and ruling party instead.