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Russia summons Israeli ambassador, said to ask: ‘Why are you backing Nazis?’

Moscow seeks clarifications after Lapid lambastes Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine; envoy Alexander Ben Zvi reportedly notes Israel’s response has been relatively mild

Israel's Ambassador to Russia Alexander Ben Zvi. (Video screenshot)
Israel's Ambassador to Russia Alexander Ben Zvi. (Video screenshot)

Russia on Friday summoned Israel’s Ambassador to Moscow Alexander Ben Zvi to clarify Israel’s position regarding the Ukraine invasion.

According to reports on Channel 12 and Ynet, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov asked Ben Zvi why Israel was expressing support for the “Nazis” in Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly made the questionable claim its invasion of its neighbor seeks to “de-Nazify” the country, whose president Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. Historians have seen the use of the Holocaust in Moscow’s PR campaign as disinformation and a cynical ploy to further the Russian aims.

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry said Bogdanov and Ben Zvi discussed bilateral ties and that the Russian diplomat “expressed hope” that Israel would show understanding toward Moscow’s motives for the military campaign. He characterized the invasion as an operation to defend Ukrainian separatists in the country’s east and to “demilitarize” Ukraine.

Bogdanov also spoke of the “importance of preserving the historical truth about the Second World War.”

As Russia attacks Ukraine, Israel has avoided taking a stance aligned too closely with either side. This is believed to be at least partly due to its need to work with the Russian military presence in neighboring Syria.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (video screenshot)

Israel has expressed concern regarding the invasion and offered humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people, but Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has avoided condemning Russia or even mentioning the country by name in his statements since the launching of the widespread military operation across Russia’s border early Thursday morning.

However, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a far more clear condemnation Thursday, calling the invasion “a grave violation of the international order.”

Russia’s Ambassador to Israel has struck a different tone, telling The Times of Israel earlier Friday that Moscow “hope[s] that Israel will continue [taking] a wise diplomatic approach.”

According to Channel 12, Bogdanov expressed surprise at the Israeli condemnation, to which Ben Zvi responded that Jerusalem’s comments have been measured, and far milder than those of other nations.

A police officer stands guard at a damaged residential building at Koshytsa Street, on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where a military shell allegedly hit, on February 25, 2022. (Genya Savilov/AFP)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry clarified that the conversation was not a reprimand or dress-down while acknowledging that there are disagreements between the sides.

Bennett spoke with Ukraine’s President Zelensky on Friday, offering to send humanitarian assistance to the embattled nation as Russian forces reached Kyiv.

The two discussed the fighting in Ukraine, especially around the capital, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Bennett offered humanitarian aid to the country and laid out to Zelensky what Israel has provided thus far.

He told Zelensky that he hopes the war will end soon, and sent a message of support to the Ukrainian people, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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