JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman described Russia’s controversial legislative elections as democratically sound.
Lieberman met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Moscow, which has been rocked by demonstrations against the vote count from the Duma ballot of Dec. 4. Putin’s United Russia party, while losing seats, still had a stronger showing than expected, prompting accusations at home and abroad of election-rigging.
The Lieberman-Putin meeting was televised, and the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS quoted the foreign minister as describing a briefing he had received from the "small but very professional" delegation of Israeli election observers that included a lawmaker from his Yisrael Beiteinu party.
“Their answer was quite clear: The elections were absolutely fair, free and democratic. This is my opinion because I rely on our observers,” Lieberman was quoted as saying.
In Jerusalem, Lieberman aides issued a statement on the meeting that made no mention of his remarks on the Duma vote. One aide said the foreign minister had been speaking extemporaneously and thus there was no full, official Israeli transcript.
The tough-talking, Moldovan-born Lieberman has frequently raised eyebrows as Israel’s top diplomat, a post he secured as part of Yisrael Beiteinu’s clout in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition government.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Lieberman had remonstrated with Russia over its support for the unilateral Palestinian statehood drive.
"He added that providing the latest weaponry to Syria, particularly in light of the current situation there, could lead to undesirable consequences for all concerned," the ministry said in a statement.