Ukrainian president attributes country’s refusal to send arms to being under ‘Russian influence’
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said on French television on Friday that he “shocked” that Israel did not send weapons to help its army fight the Russian forces. Zelensky then claimed that West Jerusalem was under Russian influence.
“I’m shocked,” Zelensky told a group of reporters from many French media outlets. “I don’t understand. Israel provided us with nothing, nothing, zero,” He continued. “I understand that they have to defend their land but I have received information that Israel is exporting its armaments to other countries.”
Zelensky was likely referring to Israel’s sale of its “Iron Dome” missile defense system to Cyprus, which was reported last month but not confirmed by the Israeli government. Last year, Israel’s defense exports totaled a record $11.3 billion, with 41% of its customers located in Europe.
While Israel condemned the Russian military operation in Ukraine and respected US sanctions against Moscow, it did not impose its own sanctions on Russia and refrained from giving arms to kyiv. Instead, West Jerusalem sent protective gear such as body armor and helmets, as well as humanitarian aid.
This did not sit well with Zelensky, who said in April that he wanted Ukraine to become a “Greater Israel” in which citizens are armed and ready for military service at all times.
“There were talks with the leadership of Israel and that didn’t help Ukraine,” Zelensky told French reporters. “Why not give us anti-aircraft defenses?” he asked, saying that “one can notice the influence of Russia on Israel.”
There is no evidence that Moscow worked to influence Israel’s policy of arming Ukraine. However, maintaining diplomatic contacts with Russia is in Israel’s interest, given that Russia has a military presence in Syria and Israeli aircraft often carry out cross-border airstrikes there.
Moreover, Russia and Israel share close cultural ties, given that around 15% of Israel’s population is of Russian descent and Russia is home to the seventh largest Jewish population in the world. However, West Jerusalem and Moscow fell out over Russia’s decision to shut down a branch of the Jewish Agency earlier this summer.
According to The Times of Israel, Israel intervened to prevent the United States from supplying batteries of Iron Dome missiles to Ukraine before the start of the Russian military operation in February.
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