The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in the final stages of surrendering control of a major piece of property in downtown Jerusalem to Russia, reported The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Former Russian President Vladimir Putin laid claim to Jerusalem's St. Sergius Church and its grounds about four years ago. Already then, Olmert expressed his willingness to relinquish the property, which also houses a branch of Israel's Agricultural Ministry and several environmental protection organizations.
The official transfer is expected to take place in the coming weeks, according to a Foreign Ministry official.
Critics of the move noted that Russia is eyeing a number of other properties in downtown Jerusalem that at various times over the past few hundred years were owned by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Also of concern is the precedent that surrendering property to the Russians will set, as many other plots in Jerusalem, including the land upon which the Knesset is built, are technically owned by the Greek Orthodox Church.