Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov on Thursday sought to calm growing Israeli concerns of Moscow’s cooperation with Tehran following the recent purchase and deployment of Iranian drones against Ukraine.
“Russia is not playing against Israel and I would like to confirm that we fully and totally are taking into account the legitimate security concerns of Israel,” Viktorov responded when asked about the drone purchases during an interview with Kan news.
Both Russia and Iran have denied the deployment of Iranian drones in Ukraine. But Israel, the US, and Ukraine have all said there is strong evidence of their use in numerous “suicide” bombing attacks.
The Russian envoy was also pressed as to whether Israel should be concerned that Moscow will assist Iran in obtaining a nuclear weapon as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently suggested.
Viktorov dismissed the charge, claiming that Zelensky “is saying many ridiculous things.”
He also suggested that the Ukrainian leader was intensifying his pressure on Israel to provide assistance in the lead-up to the Knesset elections next week, “which [constitutes] interfering in [Israel’s] internal affairs.”
Viktorov characterized Israeli-Russian ties as “friendly” but warned that a decision by Israel to arm Ukraine would be considered “unfriendly” by Moscow.
שגריר רוסיה בישראל אנטולי ויקטורוב מאיים על ישראל בריאיון בלעדי לכאן חדשות: "אם ישראל תספק לאוקראינה נשק זה ייחשב על ידי הממשלה הרוסית כמעשה לא ידידותי" @AmichaiStein1 #חדשותהערב pic.twitter.com/25Anoa3m4F
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) October 27, 2022
“Any serious moves which will not take into account the national interest of our country could not just affect but even destroy this spirit of relations between our countries,” he added.
Israel has thus far rebuffed Ukrainian requests for weapons, not wanting to burn its ties with Russia, which controls the Syrian skies in which the IDF operates to target Iranian militias below.
Viktorov indicated that Israel updates Russia ahead of the announcement of new policies regarding the war in Ukraine, but declined to elaborate further.
Asked about Moscow’s effort to shutter the Jewish Agency in Russia, Viktorov called them “a pure legal issue,” without elaborating.
He dismissed a question regarding the safety of Russia’s Jewish citizens, saying, “there are no reasons for Jewish citizens of the Russian Federation to be afraid of anything. There is no rise in antisemitism. There are not limits in their rights.”
Earlier Thursday, former chief rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt called on Russian Jews to flee the country after a top Russian defense official assailed the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement as a supremacist cult.
In an article for the government-owned Argumenty i Fakty weekly newspaper calling for the “desatanization” of Ukraine, assistant secretary of the Russian Security Council Aleksey Pavlov had claimed that the country was home to hundreds of neo-pagan cults, including the Chabad-Lubavitch sect.
Russia’s National Security Council reportedly sought to distance itself from the article, saying it went out without its knowledge and was not representative of official policy in Moscow.