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Ukraine minister: ‘Israeli politicians will be ashamed they didn’t stand with Kyiv’

Oleksii Reznikov says Israel should be concerned as Iranians gain operational experience in use of drones; says disappointed with Israel’s initial stance on Ukrainian refugees

Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov attends a news conference in Kyiv on October 26, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Genya Savilov/AFP)
Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov attends a news conference in Kyiv on October 26, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Genya Savilov/AFP)

The Ukrainian defense minister said in an interview published Friday that Israeli politicians will be “ashamed” in the future that they chose not to stand with Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

“The politicians in Israel will be ashamed in the future because they didn’t stand at our side at this time… I have a good example… Before this invasion, there were not any visa restrictions between Ukraine and Israel,” Oleksii Reznikov told Haaretz in an interview on Monday.

“When the conflict started, many European countries canceled all travel restrictions for Ukrainian refugees and helped them, etc. Israel did the opposite. Israel breached the agreement and imposed visa restrictions on our entry into the country,” Reznikov said, apparently referring to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s order for a cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees who were allowed to enter the country, a ruling later overturned by the High Court.

The Ukrainian minister spoke with the news outlet just hours after he concluded a Skype conversation with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz, which he described as “warm.”

However, Reznikov criticized Israel for its proclaimed neutrality in the war.

“When I speak with my colleagues, I understand that everyone has their own agenda, and Israel has its own agenda, especially before the election, and I’m aware of its considerations and interests too, but nonetheless I’m finding it difficult to understand why [Israel] is acting this way,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right, attends a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, October 23, 2022; Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, left, gestures as he attends the meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, April 26, 2022. (AP Photos/Abir Sultan via AP; Michael Probst)

Reznikov said that the fact that he himself is of Jewish descent strengthened his disappointment in Israel’s stance over the war.

“Definitely. I’m disappointed. I’m not angry at Israel. I don’t have harsh feelings. But it is hard for me to understand [its conduct]. I think it’s unfair. It’s shameful,” he said.

Reznikov said that Israel should be concerned by the fact that Iran was gaining operational experience in the use of drones, which could be used against Israel in the future.

“I explained to my colleague, Benny Gantz, that Russia has used Iranian drones … for striking against Ukrainian civilian facilities … At first it was said that they were only for the purpose of intelligence gathering. But very quickly it turned out that these are attack drones, which attack the helpless civilian population and the property of all Ukrainian citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity,” he said.

“The Iranians are gaining operational experience in the fighting in Ukraine and in the future, these drones will be turned against Israel too,” he said, repeating Ukraine’s plea for Israel to supply air defenses.

A drone flies over Kyiv during an attack on October 17, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

However, two days after Reznikov gave the interview, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he sees a “positive trend” in Kyiv’s relations with Israel after the two countries shared intelligence about Russia’s purported use of hundreds of Iranian drones in its war against its neighbor.

“So we are at the beginning of cooperation, this is a positive trend in relations with Israel,” Zelensky told reporters in Kyiv, adding that “after a long pause, I see us moving forward.”

Zelensky’s comments came after he criticized Israel’s neutrality in the Ukraine war, saying the decision by Israeli leaders not to support Kyiv had encouraged Russia’s military partnership with Iran.

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.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv on October 26, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

The reasoning behind the decision appears to be Israel’s proclaimed 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 cited production and supply limitations.

However, Israel has expressed growing concern over military cooperation between Russia and Iran, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid telling Ukraine’s foreign minister last week that it put “the whole world in danger.”

According to Zelensky, speaking to a conference organized by Haaretz earlier this week, Russia ordered around 2,000 drones from Iran, the same kind that Kyiv said Moscow used in its recent attacks against Ukraine.

Zelensky said “Iranian instructors came to teach Russians how to use drones” in Ukraine, echoing a White House claim last week that Iran sent military personnel to help train drone operators in Crimea.

He also warned that Russia may now help Iran develop its nuclear program in exchange for the drones supplied by the Islamic Republic.

AFP contributed to this report.

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