Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday that Israel is working to ensure that the country’s financial institutions do not make possible the circumvention of crippling sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
At a joint press conference in Bratislava with his Slovakian counterpart Ivan Korcok, Lapid condemned Russia’s military offensive as unjustified.
“Israel will not be a route to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries,” Lapid said. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating the issue together with partners, including the Bank of Israel, the Finance Ministry, the Economy Ministry, the Airports Authority, the Energy Ministry, and others.”
“Israel, like Slovakia, condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and calls for an end to the fighting,” he added. “There is no justification for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and there is no justification for attacks on a civilian population.”
Israel, Lapid vowed, “will do everything it can to assist mediation efforts, to stop the shooting and restore peace. We are working together with our greatest ally, the United States, and our European friends to prevent the continuation of this tragedy.”
Lapid added that he had spoken with Korcok about cooperation to help Jews and Israelis escape from the conflict in Ukraine via the Vysne Nemecke crossing with Romania.
He said the two countries are also cooperating on sending humanitarian aid into Ukraine.
In the wake of the Russian invasion, Western countries applied crushing sanctions on Russia, and the US and numerous other nations also leveled penalties on oligarchs.
Russia has been frozen out of international banking systems, causing the ruble to plummet in value. An increasing number of Western businesses are halting their operations in the country.
However, Israel has avoided joining Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs.
The US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, said Friday that Israel should get onboard with Western sanctions, and bar Russian oligarchs. “You don’t want to become the last haven for dirty money that’s fueling Putin’s wars,” Nuland said.
Lapid spoke after a Twitter account that tracks the movement of sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s six aircraft showed that a Gulfstream G650 belonging to Abramovich landed in Tel Aviv at around 9 p.m. local time Sunday. The plane had taken off from Moscow. It was not known if Abramovich or any members of his family were aboard.
On Friday, Channel 12 reported that 14 rented private jets have flown from Russia to Israel since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, a possible indication that some wealthy Russians are looking at ways to slip around sanctions imposed to punish their country for the attack.
Israel has reportedly has banned the oligarchs from parking their planes in the country.
According to Hebrew media reports, the Israel Airports Authority has instructed staff at Ben Gurion Airport not to approve long-term parking of private jets belonging to US-sanctioned Russians, to prevent them from being stashed in Israel in an attempt to bypass sanctions.
Lapid is on a trip to Romania and Slovakia, both of which border Ukraine, for talks with their leaders on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations with Israel. He was in Romania on Sunday.
During the three-day visit, Lapid will also meet Foreign Ministry officials who have been working under “emergency conditions” at the border crossings with Ukraine for the past two weeks, helping Israeli citizens, Ukrainian Jews, and other refugees fleeing the war.
Israel’s good relations with both Ukraine and Russia has enabled it to take on the role of mediator between the two countries.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month and had several phone conversations with him as well as with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Bennett spoke by phone with Zelensky on Saturday after Zelensky proposed that Jerusalem host ceasefire talks between Ukraine and Russia, and asserted that Israel could play an “important role” in the efforts to end the war.
Details of Israel’s mediation efforts have remained obscure. Saturday saw a top adviser to Zelensky deny a report that Israel had pushed the Ukrainian leader to accept an offer from Putin that would see Kyiv make significant concessions to end Russia’s invasion.
Israeli officials have indicated that Jerusalem has not taken a position, nor has it brought forward a proposal for a ceasefire. Rather, they assert that Bennett’s role has been clarifying the sides’ positions to each other and to other global players.