By Barak Ravid
(snip)Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin wants to visit Israel in June, and has expressed interest in unveiling a monument in Netanya honoring Jewish Red Army soldiers who fought in World War II, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz on Monday.
There have been no talks about specific arrangements because Putin has yet to be inaugurated, the source said. After he is sworn in on May 7, Israel is expected to begin preparing for his visit, the date of which will be formally announced, the official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin earlier this month to congratulate him on winning the presidential election. Netanayhu's aides issued a statement saying the two discussed the Middle East situation and the Iranian nuclear program.
Netanyahu invited Putin to visit Israel and received an invitation from him to visit Moscow.
Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow in February 2010, and the two announced they would set up a monument in Netanya to commemorate Jewish soldiers who served in the Red Army during World War II. The monument, designed by three Russian artists in the shape of a labyrinth, is about to be completed and Putin would like to unveil it, the Israeli official said.
Putin last visited Israel in April 2005, when Ariel Sharon was prime minister. The highly irregular visit took place on Passover, with only three weeks' notice. Israel lobbied unsuccessfully to get the visit postponed.