Moscow Takes Control of Holy Land Properties

Russia gained control of three plots of land in the West Bank city of Jericho at a ceremony in Moscow.

As part of agreement reached during a recent visit of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Hassan Saleh, the mayor of Jericho, on Monday handed over ownership for a tract that is home to a sycamore tree mentioned in the Gospel of Luke and two other plots in an area known as Moscovia, the state-run news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

The land was given over to Sergey Stepashin, chairman of Russia’s Audit Chamber and head of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, an organization set up under Tsarist rule to administer Russian sites in the Holy Land.

The Jericho deal is one of several efforts by Russia to gain a religiously symbolic foothold in Israel and the West Bank.