Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly interested in gaining control over a historic Jerusalem Church that was under Russian control over a century ago.
According to Haartz, Putin sent a letter to the Israeli government requesting control of The Church of St. Alexander Nevsky, which is located in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Russian Orthodox church was once under the control of the Russian Imperial government.
According to unnamed sources referenced by Haaretz, Israel is said to be “handling the matter.”
“The topic of Alexander’s Courtyard has long been at the top of the agenda of Russian-Israeli relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained, as reported by The Times of Israel. “We expect the Israeli leadership to assist us in order to complete the process as is necessary.”
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The Nevsky church, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity or Alexander’s Court, was initially named after a renowned Medieval Prince, Tsar Alexander II, or Alexander Nevsky. In 1859, Alexander bought the property the church was built. The land remained under Russian control until the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The church is located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a holy site regarded by many as the site of Jesus Christ’s tomb.
As reported by The Christian Post, in 2020, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to give the church back to Russia in exchange for the release of an Israeli citizen being held in Russia on drug charges.
The decision, however, was annulled by the Jerusalem District Court last month after The Orthodox Palestine Society of the Holy Land, which, at the time, owned the property, filed a lawsuit.
Former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who leads the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, recently asserted that Israel was “playing both sides, playing ping pong,” making the matter “difficult.”
The decision to hand the Nevsky church over to Russia would be controversial as many countries have recently placed sanctions on Russia following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.