Russia ‘resolutely’ rejects claim it moved remains of Israeli spy Eli Cohen

Moscow urged Israeli media to show a more “accurate, professional and honest approach to coverage of such sensitive issues.”

By AP and World Israel News Staff

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has strongly rejected Israeli media reports claiming that Russian officials have taken the remains of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen out of Syria, where he was executed more than five decades ago.

Cohen infiltrated the top echelons of Syria’s leadership in the early 1960s and obtained top-secret intelligence before he was caught and publicly executed in 1965.

Israeli media reported earlier this week that a Russian delegation took Cohen’s remains out of Syria.

The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement Wednesday “resolutely refuting” the claim, which it described as a “provocation.” It urged the Israeli media to show a more “accurate, professional and honest approach to coverage of such sensitive issues.”

In 2018, the Mossad intelligence agency returned Cohen’s wristwatch, which was said to have been recovered in a special operation.  Mossad Director Yossi Cohen presented the watch, which Eli had worn during his mission in Syria, to the Israeli hero’s family.

The latest rumors over the possibility that his remains could be returning home began spreading at the beginning of the week.

Despite Russian criticism of the Israeli media, the source of the rumors appeared to be websites linked to opposition groups in Syria. According to these reports, a Russian delegation had left Syria with a coffin containing Cohen’s remains. Israel neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

Earlier this month, Russia took credit when the remains of  IDF Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel were brought to Israel. In fact, on April 4, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow, held talks with President Vladimir Putin and attended a ceremony at which the Israeli leader was presented with items belonging to Baumel.

That evening, the funeral took place in Jerusalem.

Baumel had gone missing after a bloody 1982 battle with Syrian forces in southern Lebanon during the First Lebanon War.

In addition to Russia, some of the groups in Syria that have been fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad also claimed to have played a role in locating the body, though the exact details remain somewhat vague.