Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov reportedly expressed displeasure at Yair Lapid becoming prime minister due to his sharp statements on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to a report on Channel 12 news, Viktorov has said in closed-door meetings that Lapid becoming prime minister could “cause problems” in the Moscow-Jerusalem relationship.
The report points to a series of statements Lapid made as foreign minister that were very critical of Russia’s invasion, while then-prime minister Naftali Bennett adopted a more diplomatic approach. Lapid accused Moscow of war crimes and Russian forces of “killing innocent civilians.”
The network cites a response from the Russian Embassy in Israel saying that it has noted “certain statements and comments” by Israeli officials, but that it hopes Israel “will choose an impartial, balanced and considered approach to the issue.”
Israel has avoided aligning too closely with either side as one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and Russia, which controls the airspace over Syria, in which Israel operates to target Iranian proxies.
Israel has sent repeated shipments of aid to Ukraine including flak jackets and helmets, but not oft-requested military assistance.