Lapid reportedly warns ministers not to help sanctioned Jewish-Russian oligarchs

US said to also warn Jerusalem to ensure that individuals subject to international sanctions do not seek to hide their wealth in Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a situational assessment on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a situational assessment on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has warned government ministers not to provide assistance to Jewish-Russian billionaires who have been hit by international sanctions, according to reports on Monday.

“You have to be very careful because those guys have connections and they can call you on the phone and ask you for things,” the Walla news site quoted Lapid as saying during Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“Don’t commit to anything because it could cause diplomatic damage. Say you can’t help them and give them the number of the Foreign Ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US has sent Israel messages warning the country to make sure that Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the international community can’t hide their money in Israeli banks, the Ynet news site reported Monday.

A senior official told Ynet that the Bank of Israel is doing everything it can to make sure this does not happen.

Lapid said earlier that Israel was setting up an inter-ministerial committee to examine the implication of the sanctions on Russia for Israel, as several prominent oligarchs are Jewish and some, like billionaire Roman Abramovich, hold Israeli citizenship.

President Isaac Herzog speaks with Chelsea FC club owner Roman Abramovich, at the team’s stadium, on November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

A source cited by the Haaretz daily said that Israel has no way of actually affecting the list of people subject to Western sanctions, and therefore there is no reason for it to “start arguing with the whole world over something that cannot happen.”

The reports come after several Israeli institutions in early February wrote to US Ambassador Tom Nides urging Washington not to impose sanctions on Abramovich.

The signatories, including Yad Vashem’s Dani Dayan, Chief Rabbi David Lau, and Sheba Medical Center director-general Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, said such a measure would both be unfair and negatively impact Israel and the Jewish world.

Imposed since Russia began its assault on Ukraine on Thursday, US-led sanctions have excluded most of the top names on Forbes’ list of the richest Russians, like Abramovich, whose multi-billion-dollar fortunes are now largely intertwined with the West.

Abramovich symbolically diminished his status as owner of the UK soccer team Chelsea by appearing to take himself out of the decision-making process on Saturday, after facing calls to completely give up control of the Premier League club following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday evening, the EU sanctioned 26 additional Russian figures, including Kremlin mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov, Rosneft head Igor Sechin, magnate Alisher Usmanov, and bankers Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman — the founder of the Genesis Prize.

AFP contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed