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Geopolitics of Russia Hamas Relations

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Russia’s relations with the Hamas has received some attention after the October 7 attack by the Middle East group one of the deadliest terrorist strike in recent years.

Foreign policy circles were alarmed when Russian foreign ministry received a delegation from the Hamas in January this year where the Russian foreign ministry said it had urged it to release hostages the group is holding in the Gaza strip, including three Russian nationals.

 Mikhail Bogdanov, a deputy foreign minister, had received Hamas Politburo member Abu Marzouk as per a Reuters report.

"During the conversation, the focus was on the ongoing confrontation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, against the backdrop of which the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has reached catastrophic proportions," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Russian side stressed the need for the speedy release of civilians captured during the attacks of 7 October 2023 and held by Palestinian factions, including three Russian citizens - A. Kozlov, A. Lobanov and A. Trufanov."

Russian Foreign Ministry said Bogdanov also held talks with Israel's ambassador to Russia, Simona Halperin where the Israeli ambassador, it said, "was also informed about the purposeful efforts of Russian diplomacy in the interests of the immediate and unconditional release of civilians held in the Gaza Strip, including Russians".

Russia receiving the Hamas delegation is not surprising as Moscow has  despite a stated hard stance on terrorism maintains a relationship with the Middle East group despite the massacre in southern Israel carried out by Hamas militants on October 7 which included the death of 16 Russian nationals

Kremlin declined to condemn Hamas’s actions, expressing only “grave concerns,” which ipso facto provides a legitmatizing effect of recognition.

In 2006, following the group’s historic victory over Fatah in legislative elections, Russian President Putin was among the first world leaders to congratulate it and in 2007 Mr Putin hosted Hamas’s then leader, Khaled Mashal, in Moscow, receiving praise from Mashal for his “courage and manliness.”

Putin was thanked again by Hamas after the October 7 attacks, this time for his “position regarding the ongoing Zionist aggression against our people.”

Russia can be assessed to have facilitated material support for the group on the eve of the attacks, when Hamas received millions of dollars through a Moscow-based crypto exchange.

Opening of the front in the Middle East also benefited Russia in other ways with world’s attention diverting from the Russian-Ukrainian war to the Middle East conflict and a reduction in the support by the United States to Kyiv.

Ukraine interlocutors as per Al Jazeera have alleged that Russia supporting the Hamas with weapons though independent observers have denied the possibility.

“We don’t see the main thing – a statement from the Israeli military and their demonstration of the Hamas arms they seized,” Nikolay Mitrokhin of Germany’s University of Bremen told Al Jazeera.

In fact the information campaign is evident with former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suggesting that NATO arms sent to Ukraine “ended up” in the hands of Hamas fighters aiming to blame the Western alliance for supplying arms to Ukraine.

Al Jazeera quotes Igar Tyshkevich, a Kyiv-based foreign policy expert at the Ukrainian Institute of the Future, that Russia might have shipped Western arms seized in Ukraine or from Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is another political angle to Russia political and diplomatic support to the Hamas linked to the growing axis with Iran which has provided what is seen as one of the most valuable armoury for Russia at a critical period in the War in Ukraine – Shahed one way drones.

Russia is thus expected to continue the relationship with Hamas in the days ahead given the geopolitical advantages accrued despite the stigma attached.


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