Putin: Russian soldiers found the remains of Israeli MIA Zachary Baumel
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russian soldiers, together with Syrians, found the remains of IDF Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel 37 years after going missing in action in the battle of Sultan Yaaqub in the First Lebanon war.
Putin made the remarks alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived in Moscow on Thursday for a snap state visit.
“I am leaving for another periodic meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We will discuss events in Syria, and they are accumulating, the ongoing and special coordination between our militaries and other issues that are important for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said upon leaving for Moscow this morning.
Netanyahu told Putin that he is pleased to visit Russia and happy that Jerusalem and Moscow share the value of caring for our soldiers and ensuring they will return safely from battle.
Russia returns the military uniform, shoes and other items found at the Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus, that belonged to IDF MIA Zechariah Baumel at a ceremony held at the Russian Ministry of Defense.
“Russia considers it its duty to search for MIAs and that is what we will do,” Putin said.
The prime minister noted that he asked Putin personally two years ago to help Israel uncover the remains of its missing soldiers and that the Russian president accepted the request immediately.
“You have done outstanding work and even endangered Russian soldiers for this purpose. I want to thank you, in my name and that of the people of Israel, for what you did, and for the courageous friendship. it is important to us and our relationship,” Netanyahu said.
The Russian president told Netanyahu that he realized it was important for the family of Zachary Baumel to be able to visit his gravesite.
On Wednesday, the IDF announced that Baumel’s body has been returned to Israel several days ago aboard an El Al flight via an unnamed third country in an operation by Israeli intelligence agencies, but not as part of any deal with other countries.
The body has been identified at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir and by the IDF’s chief rabbi. Baumel’s body was handed over to family members and will be laid to rest in the upcoming days.
Baumel was one of six soldiers who went missing in Lebanon on June 11, 1982, at the beginning of the First Lebanon War, fighting against Syrian forces.
Twenty IDF soldiers were killed in the battle, one of Israel’s worst failures in the war. Two soldiers were taken captive and the body of a third missing soldier was returned in 1984 and 1985. The whereabouts of two others, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz, are still unknown.