Russia summons Israeli ambassador for criticizing Lavrov, Moscow’s ties with Hamas

Russian foreign ministry informs Simona Halperin of its ‘negative reaction’ to interview in which she said the country’s top diplomat downplayed the importance of the Holocaust

Israel's Ambassador to Russia Simona Halperin (right) presents her credentials to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, January 1, 2024. (Simona Halperin's X account)
Israel's Ambassador to Russia Simona Halperin (right) presents her credentials to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, January 1, 2024. (Simona Halperin's X account)

MOSCOW – Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it had informed Israeli Ambassador Simona Halperin of its “negative reaction” to criticisms of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian policy in the Middle East made by the diplomat.

The Israeli envoy was summoned to the foreign ministry earlier on Tuesday, a day after Russian authorities lashed out over what they called “unacceptable comments” made by the ambassador in an interview with Russian newspaper Kommersant published on Sunday.

Halperin told the paper that Lavrov played down the importance of the Holocaust and and said Russia was too friendly with the Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas.

Russia in late January appeared to belittle the Holocaust’s impact on the Jewish people, characterizing it as a mass extermination of “various ethnic and social groups,” while slamming Germany for intervening on behalf of Israel as a third party in the International Court of Justice’s “genocide” case.

At a media conference, the Kremlin’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized what she labeled as Berlin’s “unfettered support” for the Jewish state, and accused it of systematically ignoring the plight of non-Jewish European minorities, particularly Slavic peoples in the then-Soviet Union, who were massacred during the Holocaust.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded with a brief statement, thanking Germany “for its unequivocal support and its stand against South Africa’s baseless claim,” and blasting the spokesperson’s comments as a “distortion of the Holocaust” and “harmful to victims and survivors.”

Amid the war in Gaza, which was sparked by the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages, Russia has regularly criticized Israel, including in the UN Security Council, while hosting leaders of Gaza’s Hamas rulers in a development widely seen as an extension of its increasingly friendly ties with Iran.

Moscow has backed Israel’s right to defend itself but has blasted Israel for employing “cruel methods” in its campaign against the terror group.

Tehran has become a key ally as Moscow seeks support for its invasion of Ukraine. Israel had offered only relatively modest support for Kyiv in a bid to safeguard its relationship with Russia, but the once-close allies have nonetheless grown far apart.

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