On September 10, 2022 a high-ranking Hamas delegation, led by the head of the movement's political bureau, Isma'il Haniya, his deputy Saleh Al-'Arouri and bureau members Moussa Abu Marzouq and Maher Salah, made an official visit to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian foreign ministry. During the visit the Hamas leaders met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his deputy Mikhail Bogdanov, among other Russian officials. The delegation members expressed support for Russia's positions on various issues, and the Russian officials, for their part, expressed support for Hamas.
It should be noted that Russia has not designated Hamas as a terror organization and officials in its foreign ministry, such as Deputy Minister Bogdanov, maintain ongoing ties with this movement. In fact, this is not the first visit by a high-ranking Hamas delegation in Russia, and Lavrov previously met with Haniya in Moscow, in 2020. In all their contacts with Hamas, Russian officials are careful to state that they favor a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, although Hamas itself opposes such a settlement and stresses its commitment to the armed struggle. Russia has also tried its hand at mediating between the Palestinian factions, and even held a special conference in Moscow in 2019 for representatives of the different factions, but these efforts yielded no results.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Hamas officials have often stated that the war and the changes taking place in the world mean that the U.S. is losing its "hegemonial" status, and that the new "multipolar" order taking shape in the world will benefit the Palestinian cause. These officials therefore stress the importance of displaying openness towards Russia and China, the rivals of the U.S. and the West, and of making alliances with all elements that support the "Palestinian resistance."
This position was expressed, for example, by Hamas official Isma'il Radwan. Addressing the importance of the recent visit by the Hamas delegation in Russia, he said that it "came amid regional and international changes and the collapse of the unipolar [world order] led by the U.S., which is biased in favor of the occupation… The [Hamas] movement seeks to develop its ties with Russia in light of the latter's importance and influence in the world… The movement seeks to expand its regional and international ties so as to enlist support for the Palestinian cause.
The Hamas delegation in meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov (Source: mid.ru, September 12, 2022)
This report reviews the visit of the Hamas delegation in Russia and the statements made in this context by Hamas and Russian officials and media.
Differing Statements About Meeting Between Hamas Leadership And Russian FM Lavrov
On September 12, 2022 the Hamas delegation met with Russian FM Lavrov and his deputy Bogdanov. Statements issued by the two sides following the meeting differed in their focus, with the Russian statements stressing the Russian support for a political settlement between the Palestinians and Israel, and Hamas sources stressing the armed struggle against it.
Statement By Russian Foreign Ministry: Conflict With Israel Must Be Settled "On Basis Of Generally-Recognized Legal Framework"
According to the official statement of the Russian foreign ministry, the talks between the ministry officials and the Hamas delegation focused on "the developments in the Middle East, with emphasis on Palestinian affairs. The Russian side stressed the importance of quickly restoring the Palestinian national unity on the basis of the PLO's political program, as well as the need to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of generally-recognized legal framework, which is rooted in the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly and the Arab peace initiative."
Hamas Statement: All Negotiations With Israel Have Failed; "Resistance" Is The Only "Realistic" Option
The Hamas statement, on the other hand, emphasized that the delegation had informed the Russian officials of "the Israeli violations" against the Palestinian people and had stressed the Palestinians' right to "resist the occupation by every possible means, until liberation and return [are achieved]." They also stressed the Palestinian people's right to all its natural resources, "especially the natural gas" (an allusion to the gas field off the Gaza shore), and decried "the robbing of the Palestinian and Lebanese resources by the [Israeli] enemy." They expressed their opposition to "the U.S. attempts to integrate the Zionist entity in the region" (a reference to the peace agreements between Israel and Arab countries). The statement said further that Hamas "is working to strengthen its ties with its Islamic and Arab surroundings and with influential international elements that support our people," and added: "The hegemonial status of the U.S. in the world order has harmed the Palestinian cause, and we believe that the shift to a multipolar world order based on just principles will benefit our people and our cause."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (center) and Hamas delegation members (from right to left) Salah Al-'Arouri, Isma'il Haniya, Moussa Abu Marzouq and Maher Salah (Source: Hamas.ps, September 12, 2022)
Haniya's media advisor Taher Al-Nounou said that Haniya had presented Lavrov with a letter for Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Hamas sources, the letter expressed support for Russia's foreign policy, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine and the conflict with the West, and stressed the 'common interests' of Russia and Hamas. It also accused Israel of harming Russia's national interests and of targeting Russia's allies in the Middle East.
According to Al-Nounou, the delegation emphasized to Lavrov "the [Palestinians'] right to wage [armed] resistance, which is the realistic way to oppose the Israeli occupation, especially in light of the failure of the negotiation processes." Al-Nounou urged Russia to increase its involvement in promoting the Palestinian cause "so as to end the American monopoly over this issue," and noted that "the unipolar [world] order has harmed international politics and the Palestinian cause."
Haniya presenting Lavrov with a letter to President Putin (Source: Hamas.ps, September 13, 2022)
Russian Senator In Meeting With Hamas Leadership: "We Are Concerned About The New Wave Of Violence"
The day after the meeting with Lavrov, the Hamas delegation met with Leonid Slutsky, chair of the International Affairs Committee in the State Duma (Russia's lower house of parliament), and with Grigory Karasin, his counterpart in the Federation Council (the Russian senate or upper house of parliament). According to a statement on the Hamas website, the delegation stressed to these officials "the strategic importance of [Hamas'] ties with Russia, in light of [the latter's] regional and international influence, and of continuing the consultation on various issues."
According to a Russian media report, Karasin told the delegation members that "Russia supports the quick restoration of the Palestinian national unity on the basis of the PLO's political program," and that "the conflict with Israel must be resolved on the basis of the UN resolutions and the Arab peace initiative." He added: "Russia is concerned about the new wave of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We condemn the disproportional use of force against unarmed Arab residents of the occupied territories,,, [and] call on both sides to avoid provocations that can escalate the situation. The recent escalation shows once again that the situation will remain volatile until compromises are reached that are acceptable to both sides."
Hamas Leader In Meeting With Russian Senator: We Stand United With Russia Against "U.S. Hegemony"
The Russian media quoted Haniya as making the following statements in the meeting with Karasin: "We stand united with Russia in the struggle against U.S. hegemony. We very much want Russia's special military operation [i.e., the war in Ukraine] to eventually precipitate a shift in the world order, so that the unipolar world led by the U.S. will be replaced by a truly multipolar world… All of the Middle East countries would like America's involvement in the region to decrease. America's policy is brutish, and there are plenty of examples of this. Suffice it to examine what has happened in several Arab countries like Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria. We Palestinians have also suffered from the American [policies]… Another example is the sanctions imposed by the Americans on Russia in an attempt to undermine its international positions. We therefore stress our complete solidarity with Russia in confronting these sanctions…"
The Hamas delegation in meetings with Russian officials Leonid Slutsky (left) and Grigory Karasin (right) (Source: Hamas.ps, September 13, 2022)
Official Russian Report About Meeting Between Tatarstan President And Delegation From "State Of Palestine"
On September 14, 2022 the Hamas delegation visited Kazan, capital of the Muslim-majority Republic of Tatarstan, and met with its president, Rustam Minnikhanov. An official report by Minnikhanov's office stated that he had met with representatives of the "state of Palestine" to discuss "the warming of Russia's ties with the Islamic world on the cultural and civilizational levels."
Hamas Report On Meeting With Tatarstan President: We Updated Minnikhanov On Israel's "Policy Of Systematic Murder "
A report on Hamas's website stated that the Hamas delegation had given the Tatarstan president an update "on the situation in Palestine and especially about what is happening in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque… and about the policy of settlement-construction and systematic murder carried out by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinians." The delegation also emphasized the need "to support the Palestinian people, defend the sites holy to Islam and Christianity in Palestine, and confront the Israeli plans to target them."
Hamas delegation's meeting with Tatarstan President Minnikhanov (Sources: president.tatarstan.ru, hamas.ps, September 14, 2022)
Hamas: We Are Pleased With The Visit, Which Was An Opportunity For Consultation And In-Depth Discussion With The Russians
According to a report in the Russian media, Haniya said upon concluding the visit that the delegation was "pleased" with it and that it had yielded "decisions on a number of Middle East issues." Haniya made similar remarks to the Russia Today channel in Arabic, stating that the meeting with FM Lavrov and his deputy Bogdanov had been an opportunity to consult with the Russians and engage in an in-depth discussion of various issues, such as the intra-Palestinian reconciliation, the character of the conflict with Israel and developments in the region and the world. He added: "We gave Mr. Lavrov a special letter from myself to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is the first letter of its kind that will reach him directly from us. The letter deals with special issues that will be discussed in the future [with the Russian foreign ministry]."
Haniya in interview on Russia Today (Arabic.rt.com, September 15, 2022)
Russian Media Reports On The Visit: Hamas Is "Moderate" And "Pragmatic"
Reports about the visit in the Russian media expressed support for Hamas, describing it as "moderate" and "pragmatic" and its leaders as "statemen" who are "open to dialogue." Below are two examples of such reports:
Federation Council Mouthpiece: U.S. And Israel "Slander" Hamas
After his meeting with the Hamas delegation, Russian Senator Grigory Karasin gave an interview to The Parliamentary Newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the Federation Council, in which he was very complimentary towards Hamas. The following are excerpts from the interview:
"It appears that Western [political] hawks and their allies in several Arab countries are thinking of establishing a new military framework, this time in the Middle East, whose main target may be Iran and a number of other countries. Grigory Karasin, chair of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke about this with The Parliamentary Newspaper following his meeting with a delegation from Palestine, led by Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya...
"Haniya, known as one of the most moderate and prudent leaders of Hamas, makes frequent visits to Russia. Prior to his recent visit he came to Moscow in 2020. Born in a Gaza Strip refugee camp in 1963, this statesman has been the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2007, and has chaired its political bureau since 2017…
"The Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement was founded in December 1987, and has held a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council since the 2006 elections. However, its representatives' relations with Fatah, Palestine's leading political party, have always been strained. This rift between these two key political forces in the state [of Palestine] has been used a central argument by the opponents of [reaching] a peaceful political solution to the years-long Arab-Israeli conflict, which [periodically] flares up due to territorial disputes over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
"The position of Hamas, which, after winning the [election to the Palestinian] national parliament, refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, caused Washington and Brussels [i.e., the U.S. and Europe] to stop their economic aid to Palestine in the late 2000s. Hamas itself has been designated by the West as a terror organization. This is the position of the U.S., Canada, Britain, the E.U., Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Russia, which has maintained bilateral ties with the PLO since 1974 and is actively in contact with its leadership, never regarded Hamas as an extremist militant group…
"The main focus of the conversation [between Karasin and the Hamas delegation] was the effort to attain stability in the Middle East, especially in the Palestinian arena… 'The situation, [Karasin says], will remain volatile until compromises are reached that are acceptable to both sides, and this must happen on the basis of the generally-recognized legal framework. We firmly oppose any attempts to reexamine [this] legal basis or to change the priorities. I refer mainly to America's and Israel's bid to replace the peace talks… with palliative measures of extending economic aid to the Palestinians… The Americans and Israelis claim – based on the absence of a joint Palestinian negotiation team – that the conditions for discussing [a political settlement] are not yet ripe. But they themselves do everything in their power to avoid restating the peace process. They slander Hamas and rush to convince other countries to designate it as a terror organization… '
"Karasin emphasized that Russia greatly appreciates 'the firm position of its Palestinian partners, who, despite immense pressure from the West regarding [Russia's] special military operation [i.e., the war in Ukraine], have not changed their position on preserving the good relations with our country.' Moreover, Washington and its lackies currently use Ukraine crisis as another pretext for marginalizing [the efforts] to resolve the Middle East [conflict]… We regard these tricks unacceptable,' he said, 'and keep explaining to the representatives of the Israeli leadership, patiently and consistently, that the refusal to maintain a dialogue with the Palestinians is at odds with the strategic interests of their country at this time'…
"The representatives from Palestine [i.e., the members of the Hamas delegation] told the Russian lawmakers about the Western plan to establish a pro-Western military bloc in the Middle East. 'Our Palestinian colleagues, said Karasin, told us how Western representatives and a whole series of Arab countries are thinking of establishing a Middle Eastern version of NATO and directing all the anger of this new bloc at Iran. For now this is [just] an idea, but it is already being discussed…'"
Grigory Karasin (Source: pnp.ru, September 15, 2022)
Russian Commentators On Hamas: "It Is A Middle Eastern Arab Version Of The Taliban"
An article posted by a local news website following the Hamas delegation's visit to Tatarstan was rife with contradictions. Some of the commentators cited in it described Hamas as a "moderate" movement that "spearheads the struggle against aggression," while also noting that it opposes any kind of compromise with Israel. The following are excerpts from the article:
"…Alexei Malashenko, a researcher of Islam, regards Isma'il Haniya as a 'pragmatic and serious [leader] interested in maintaining good relations with everyone. 'I would call [Hamas] a Middle Eastern Arab version of the Taliban, which needs to survive as a player in Middle Eastern politics, [he says]'… His colleague, expert Kirill Semenov agrees: 'All of Hamas' leaders today are quite moderate and pragmatic. They are willing to hold a dialogue with everyone, and to work for the benefit of the Palestinian people. [They are amenable to] any dialogue that can lead to a [political] breakthrough… [But] peace with Israel and the like, or [accepting an Israeli] withdrawal to the 1957 [sic., should be 1967] lines, is a different matter, and they will not accept it under any conditions…'
"Journalist Maksim Shevchenko described the guest [Haniya in the following terms]: 'I have met Isma'il Haniya in person and know him well. He is a very respectable man, just like [former] Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al. These people are good friends of our country. Isma'il Haniya is a profound man with intense [religious] convictions, but at the same time he is a modern man who has spent much of his life fighting aggression and lost many close [friends] and family members. Generally speaking, he is a serious and profound statesman. I have immense respect, affection and esteem for him…'
"Malshenko explains: 'Relations between Hamas and the Kremlin have always been quite stable, and Hamas has never been designated by Russia as a terror organization. Since our country now has serious problems in its foreign relations, it must preserve the ties its still has at any cost. True, Hamas is an Islamic organization, but it is very diverse. It includes both extremist radicals and moderates… [Hamas'] dialogue with Tatarstan is a model for normal relations between Russia and the Islamic world, including with the moderate faction within Hamas…'
"Maksim Shevchenko [says]: 'Russia maintains a very correct position of supporting the just struggle of the Palestinian people, [an issue] that unites all the sane Muslims in the world. Supporting the Palestinians is very important, because it shows that you are on the right side of the global divide. Russia's ties with the Palestinian movement of Hamas – which spearheads the struggle against aggression – are therefore very right and very just. They elevate Russia's standing in the Islamic world and cause it to be respected for its positions…"
 Hamas.ps, September 10, 2022.
 Palinfo.com, March 2, 2020.
 Archive.mid.ru, February 12, 2019.
 The discourse favoring a multipolar world order is a major element in Russia's political doctrine as well.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10068 – Senior Hamas Officials: We Must Form Strategic Alliances With Supporters Of The Resistance And Open Up To Russia, China And Iran – In Light Of The Changing World Order, Shrinking Of American Hegemony, July 7, 2022.
 Alresalah.ps, September 13, 2022.
 Mid.ru, September 12, 2022.
 Hamas.ps, September 12, 2022.
 Hamas.ps, September 13, 2022.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 17, 2022.
 Aljazeera.net, September 14, 2022.
 Hamas.ps, September 13, 2022.
 Vmeste-rf.tv, September 13, 2022.
 Tass.ru, September 13, 2022.
 Tatarstan is one of the republics that make up the Russian Federation. While it is not authorized to formulate an independent foreign policy, it seeks to develop economic ties with Middle East countries.
 President.tatarstan.ru, September 14, 2022.
 Hamas.ps, September 14, 2022.
 Arabic.rt.com, ria.ru, September 14, 2022. The report added that Haniya had welcomed Russia's positions on "settling the Arab-Israeli conflict."
 Hamas.ps, September 15, 2022.
 On the issue of the "Middle East NATO" initiative, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1645 - Failed Initiative To Establish Middle East NATO – Arab Countries Clarify: There Will Be No Regional Military Alliance Against Iran; We Seek To Improve Our Relations With It – July 26, 2022.
 Pnp.ru, September 15, 2022.
 Tatar-inform.ru, September 14, 2022.