Russia’s envoy to Israel warned Thursday that Moscow will respond if Jerusalem supplies Kyiv with defensive gear amid his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking with Russian state television, Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov noted Defense Ministry Benny Gantz’s announcement a day earlier that Israel will provide Ukraine with helmets and flak jackets.
Gantz’s office stressed the equipment will go to Ukrainian civilian rescue and medical forces, not the military.
“We are carefully checking this information and will respond accordingly if it is confirmed,” Viktorov said.
It was not clear from Viktorov’s remarks what such a response might entail.
Gantz’s announcement Wednesday marked a policy shift for Israel, which first weighed Ukrainian requests for some defensive equipment in March. More recently, devastating images coming out of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha galvanized many countries against the Russian effort and led to a change of tone from Israeli politicians.
Israel has avoided aligning too closely with either side since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. It is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and Russia.
However, the rhetoric coming from Jerusalem shifted in the wake of the reports of widespread civilian killings by the Russians. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid even explicitly accused Russia of war crimes earlier this month, in the strongest comments yet by a top Israeli official against Moscow.
While Jerusalem might have somewhat shifted its tone to align more with Western powers, it has so far steadfastly declined to contribute to the Ukrainian military effort. Instead, Israel has sent a 100-ton humanitarian aid package to Ukraine and built a field hospital in the west of the country.