Knesset speaker pans Russia’s actions in conversation with Ukrainian counterpart

Mickey Levy is only second top official to condemn Putin’s attack; Ukraine’s Ruslan Stefanchuk asks Levy to promote a potential Russian-Ukrainian summit in Israel

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy seated in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy seated in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy spoke on Saturday evening to his Ukrainian counterpart, Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, to offer his solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

“The Russian attack on Ukraine is a blatant violation of international order,” Levy told Stefanchuk, echoing similar comments by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday. He also expressed his hope for an end to the violence.

Levy also told his counterpart that humanitarian aid will be delivered to Ukraine in the coming days.

According to the Knesset speaker’s office, Stefanchuk thanked Levy for his support, and asked him to promote a potential Russian-Ukrainian summit in Israel.

On Friday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to serve as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia, according to multiple sources.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told The New York Times that “we do believe that Israel is the only democratic state in the world that has great relations with both Ukraine and Russia.”

Then-first vice speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk (right) attends a parliament session in Kyiv, Ukraine, on August 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

He added that Bennett did not give an immediate answer. “They didn’t say no,” he said. “They are trying to figure out where they are in this chess play.”

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Zelensky told Bennett: “We want the negotiations to take place in Jerusalem. We think that Israel is the country that could hold such negotiations in the middle of the war.”

The Prime Minister’s Office has declined to comment.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid strongly criticized Russia on Thursday over its invasion of Ukraine, calling it “a grave violation of the international order.” Hours later, however, Bennett declined to condemn Russia, saying only that “our hearts are with the civilians of eastern Ukraine.”

Diplomatic sources have said the divided approach is an intentional effort to stake a careful middle ground between its two allies.

Russia on Friday summoned Israel’s Ambassador to Moscow Alexander Ben Zvi to clarify Israel’s position. According to reports on Channel 12 and Ynet, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov asked Ben Zvi why Israel was expressing support for the “Nazis” in Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly made the questionable claim its invasion of its neighbor seeks to “de-nazify” the country, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish. Historians have seen the use of the Holocaust in Moscow’s PR campaign as disinformation and a cynical ploy to further the Russian aims.

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