Feting Netanyahu, Ukraine’s Zelensky says he ready for close ties with Jerusalem

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says Kyiv is ready to work closely with Israel on achieving “victory over evil,” congratulating new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I wish success on the way to the welfare & security of Israel,” he tweets.

He adds that Ukraine is ready “for close cooperation to strengthen our ties & confront common challenges, achieve prosperity & victory over evil.”

Kyiv has aired grievances over Israel’s refusal to supply it with air defense systems or other arms, but may be hoping for a change of tact with Netanyahu, though the new prime minister has mentioned his predecessors’ policy on the issue as an area of rare agreement.

The statement comes hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin also congratulated Netanyahu, expressing hopes for closer ties between Jerusalem and Moscow.

“I hope that the new government under your leadership will continue the line of strengthening Russian-Israeli cooperation in all areas for the benefit of our peoples, in the interest of ensuring peace and security in the Middle East,” Putin said in a message to Netanyahu, quoted in a Kremlin statement. “In Russia, we greatly appreciate your personal and long-standing contribution to strengthening friendly relations between our countries,” Putin continued.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, September 12, 2019. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo via AP)

Israel has taken a cautious position toward Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine in February, seeking to maintain an open channel to both sides. Jerusalem has particularly emphasized the special ties between the nations, as Israel has more than a million citizens from the former Soviet Union, while Ukraine was home to hundreds of thousands of Jews before the war.

Russia has shown frustration at Israel over its stated sympathy for Ukraine, but Putin might be optimistic about the return of Netanyahu, who had frequently boasted of his close ties with the Russian leader.

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