Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Israel on Monday for his first official visit to the country since 2005. The purpose of the visit was to promote Russian-Israeli relations on economic, cultural and religious matters.
Upon arrival in Israel, Putin was greeted by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the airport, before his scheduled appearance at a dedication ceremony for a monument in Netanya commemorating the Red Army's victory over the Nazis. Putin was to be greeted by President Shimon Peres at the ceremony and the two presidents were slated to give speeches.
Peres is slated to tell Putin that, "Israel owes deep gratitude to Red Army soldiers on their contribution to the liberation of Nazi concentration camps."
On Monday afternoon, the Russian president is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his residence in Jerusalem and they will hold a joint press conference.
Putin arrived in Israel with a 400-person Russian delegation, including a long list of officials and businessmen. A group of Russian oligarchs also accompanied Putin to Israel, including Yuri Kanner, Michael Freedman, and Dmitry Bosov.
Putin's focus on economic and cultural issues during his visit to Israel is not coincidental, officials in Jerusalem said ahead of the visit. "The president wants to demonstrate his positive relations with the region," one official said. Putin is reportedly interested in having a Russian company lay down railroad tracks for the new railway route between Tel Aviv and Eilat. He is also interested in collaborating with Israel on a gas project off the coast of Haifa.
Following the press conference at the prime minister's residence, Putin is expected to meet with Peres again at the President's Residence where a special dinner is planned. Putin will deliver a speech in Russian, while Peres will make remarks in Hebrew.
The Iranian nuclear issue is also expected to come up during Putin's meetings in Israel. According to official sources, Peres will likely emphasize to Putin that, "Iran has been working around the clock to produce a nuclear bomb."
Other topics on the list for discussion is the peace process with the Palestinians and violence in Syria.
On Tuesday, Putin is scheduled to visit Bethlehem where he will attend the opening of a new Russian cultural center. He will then cross the Allenby Bridge into Jordan where he will meet with King Abdullah and then visit the Jordan River at the spot where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.