The Israeli prime minister came to Moscow on Thursday to discuss the US Mideast peace plan and take an Israeli woman who had been jailed in Russia back home.
Benjamin Netanyahu made a stopover in Moscow after visiting Washington where President Donald Trump as he unveiled his long-awaited Mideast peace plan Tuesday.
Trump's plan envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel. It sides with Israel on key contentious issues that have bedeviled past peace efforts, including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements, and attaches nearly impossible conditions for granting the Palestinians their hoped-for state.
Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin as they sat down for talks in the Kremlin that he wants to discuss the plan and hear his opinion about it.
"You are the first leader I am speaking with after my visit in Washington for Trump's Deal of the Century," he said. "I think there is a new opportunity here, maybe even unique opportunity, and I'd like to discuss it with you and hear your insights."
Trump called his plan a "win-win" for both Israel and the Palestinians, and urged the Palestinians not to miss their opportunity for independence. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the plan as "nonsense" and vowed to resist it.
The Israeli leader's visit comes a day after Putin pardoned 26-year-old Naama Issachar, who was arrested in April at a Moscow airport, where she was transferring en route from India to Israel. Russian authorities said more than nine grams of hashish were found in her luggage. She was convicted and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.
Putin asked Netanyahu to give his regards to Issachar and her mother.
"I would like to thank you on behalf of all the people of Israel for granting a pardon to Naama Issachar," Netanyahu said. "We are all touched by this."
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed decrees giving jobs in his administration to members of the former government.
Former Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin and former Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky were appointed as presidential aides, while former Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak became a deputy head of administration.
Putin increased the number of deputy heads of administration to three from the previous two by a separate decree.
The former government, headed by Dmitry Medvedev, resigned on Jan. 15.
Germany is banning the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland in what the country's top security official said Thursday was a "clear message" against far-right extremism and anti-Semitism.
More than 200 police officers carried out raids in six German states early Thursday, seizing cellphones, computers, unspecified weaponry, Nazi memorabilia and propaganda material, the Interior Ministry said.
The group had spread "far-right extremism and anti-Semitic hatred" in German society by producing neo-Nazi music and staging concerts for extremist bands, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.
The group is an offshoot of Combat 18, which was founded in Britain in the early 1990s as a militant wing of the British National Party. The number 18 stands for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, AH, which are the initials of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
The German chapter of Combat 18 "enjoys great respect within the far-right extremist scene" and is regarded as a symbol of violent extremism, Seehofer said.
Some of the group's members were convicted of illegally importing ammunition to Germany as they returned from firearms training in the Czech Republic in September 2017.
The police raids were carried out in Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia states.
Russia's parliament has approved a package of constitutional amendments in a first reading Thursday, in a move widely seen as an attempt by President Vladimir Putin to stay in on power past the end of his term in 2024.
Putin submitted the amendments to the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, on Monday, just several days after presenting them in the annual state-of-the-nation address last week.
He suggested that lawmakers could name prime ministers and Cabinet members, proposed a greater role for the State Council, an obscure consultative body of regional governors and federal officials, and sought to prioritize the primacy of Russian laws over international law.
The proposed changes, he argued, would bolster democracy.
The Kremlin-controlled Duma unanimously voted for the amendments on Thursday, after discussing them for two hours.
Putin, a 67-year-old former KGB office, has led Russia for more than 20 years — the longest since the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. According to the Russian Constitution, he will have to step down in 2024, having served two consecutive terms.
The bill submitted to parliament empowers the State Council to "determine the main directions of home and foreign policy," its specific authority yet to be spelled in a separate law.
It gives the parliament more say over Cabinet ministers' appointment, but emphasizes that the president should retain the power to dismiss the prime minister and Cabinet ministers and remain in charge of the Russian military and law enforcement agencies.
Commentators see these proposals as a strategy for Putin to stay in charge by becoming the head of the State Council.
The draft also modifies the constitution to limit a president to two terms altogether, unlike the current version containing a limit of two consecutive terms.
The second reading of the bill is scheduled for Feb. 11. Lawmakers and the working group created by Putin have already come up with a variety of proposals in addition to what the draft law outlines.
Putin said that the constitutional changes need to be approved by the entire nation, but it remains unclear how such a vote would be organized.
Russian opposition members condemned the reform as a "constitutional coup" and called for a rally against it on Feb. 29.