Russia said to threaten retaliation if Israel supplies defense aid to Ukraine

US media reports Moscow will respond if military equipment is supplied directly or through third party; separate report says Iran asked Russia for help on nuclear program

A ceremony to open an Israeli field hospital in Mostyska, Ukraine, on March 22, 2022 (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
A ceremony to open an Israeli field hospital in Mostyska, Ukraine, on March 22, 2022 (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

Russia has warned Israel that it will retaliate if Jerusalem sends defensive weapons to Ukraine, according to US media.

Citing two unnamed sources familiar with Russian policy, Bloomberg news reported that Russia would respond if Israel passed along air-defense systems directly or through a third party to Ukraine. The report did not specify what action Moscow might take.

Jerusalem has seemed to warm to the idea of supplying defensive equipment as Iran supplies the Kremlin with attack drones. Prime Minister Yair Lapid told Ukraine’s foreign minister in October that Moscow’s ties with Tehran put “the whole world in danger.”

However, the coming change of government in Israel leaves future policy under question. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to form the next government, has been known for his good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Bloomberg report follows remarks made by former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev last month, who warned Israel against sending weaponry to Ukraine, saying it would “destroy all diplomatic relations” between Jerusalem and Moscow.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told Channel 12’s “Uvda” on Tuesday that Israel recently agreed to provide his country with radio systems it had requested in February, and said last week that the two countries were engaged in intelligence cooperation relating to the Iranian-made Shahed suicide drones employed by Russia in the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with journalists from Israeli investigative show ‘Uvda’ in Kyiv, in an interview aired on October 31, 2022.(Yaniv Shabtay, Ronen Mayo – ‘Uvda’)

“We are fighting against [a] new big union, Russia and Iran, and now I hope that Israel will help us, and will strong[ly] react to this,” he said, adding that according to intelligence from Ukraine and other countries, Russia has acquired some 1,500 Iranian attack drones.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk also said there had been progress “on some technical issues related to defense,” particularly regarding Israel’s offer to provide missile alert technology.

While providing humanitarian assistance, Israel has maintained a strict policy of not providing military aid to Ukraine since Russian troops invaded on February 24, including systems that could help it intercept Russian missile and drone attacks.

The reasoning behind the decision appears to be Israel’s strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, as part of its efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment on its doorstep.

To that end, Israel cooperates with the Russian military, which largely controls Syria’s airspace. Israeli officials have also expressed fear that advanced military technology could fall into enemy hands and have cited production and supply limitations.

In another alleged development of ties between Russia and Iran, CNN reported Friday that Tehran has requested assistance from the Kremlin for its nuclear program in the event that it fails to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers.

In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)

Citing US intelligence officials briefed on the matter, the network reported that Iran asked Russia for nuclear material and fuel that could shorten the time it would take to build a nuclear weapon.

However, it was not clear if Moscow — which opposes the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran — had agreed to aid them in their efforts, according to CNN. Iran’s UN delegation and Russia’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request by the network for a comment on the report.

Negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have remained stalled for months.

On Monday, US special envoy to Iran Robert Malley said the US was not “wasting” time trying to pursue a new deal, adding that there had been no movement in the negotiations since Iran imposed new, unconnected conditions in August.

“It’s really not our focus now,” he said.

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