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Ukrainian envoy says Israel should use influence in Moscow to negotiate with Russia

Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk says Ukraine understands Israel can make no military contribution after Russia’s Ukraine invasion, but wants Jerusalem to aid communication

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, gives a statement to the media on the Russian invasion to the Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, February 25, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)
Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, gives a statement to the media on the Russian invasion to the Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, February 25, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel said Friday that while he understands Israel’s own delicate security relations with Moscow will prevent the offer of military help to Kyiv after Russia’s invasion, he expects more support on the diplomatic front.

Yevgen Korniychuk said that more specifically he would like Israeli leaders to use their diplomatic weight in Moscow to help work toward a peaceful resolution to the Russia-initiated conflict, now in its second day.

“We are sensitive to the security situation with Russia to [Israel’s] north in Syria, so we’re asking mainly for a diplomatic effort,” Korniychuk said at a press conference at the Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv, referring to the fact that Moscow allows the IDF to carry out strikes on Iranian targets in Syria.

“That [effort] has to be made and we do believe your prominent politicians can visit Kyiv and Moscow, in order to find a way towards a peaceful solution to the current conflict,” he said.

“We are fighting on our own at the moment,” Korniychuk said.

Earlier this month, Korniychuk was summoned to Jerusalem for a dressing down from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, after Korniychuk accused Israel of siding with the Kremlin.

On Thursday, Lapid delivered Israel’s strongest statement of support in this conflict to date, condemning the “Russian attack on Ukraine.”

Korniychuk said he was “satisfied” with Lapid’s recent condemnation.

In addition to Israel, Korniychuk expressed disappointment with the Western response to the Russian invasion, noting that their countries are largely standing on the sidelines.

Korniychuk said he met with all of the EU’s ambassadors to Israel on Thursday.

“We need more munitions, we need more defensive weapons, we need more financial aid, we don’t have enough. Our European Union friends are slow in making decisions, but we need the help now,” he said.

Korniychuk, who was visibly distraught before and during the press conference to journalists, shared with The Times of Israel that his daughter is currently living in Ukraine.

On Friday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and offered humanitarian aid.

Speaking before the official announcement of the package, expected to include medical supplies and equipment, Korniychuk said that Kyiv was not expecting military aid from Jerusalem.

“We’re not talking about Israeli soldiers, you have your own security concerns [with Russia in Syria],” Korniychuk said. “We’re smart enough not to ask you something you won’t do.”

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)

Kyiv and Ukrainian towns and cities have come under prolonged assault since Russia launched its invasion on Thursday. Air raid sirens have sent people rushing for shelters.

According to Army Radio on Friday, Ukraine, unlike Israel, has not invested in civilian bomb shelters.

“I’m sure [Israelis] know what I’m talking about when I say most of the people in the big cities today spend their night in the metro stations and their basements in order to feel secure against the airstrikes,” said Korniychuk.

“Currently, many of our politicians and journalists are saying we need to think about the Israelization of Ukraine, in the way that our military must be well prepared,” Korniychuk said.

“But unlike Israel, we oppose one of the biggest and strongest armies in the world, which is Russia. Definitely, it will take an enormous effort for Ukrainian people to stay strong and oppose the Russian army,” he said.

On Thursday, Russian forces invaded Ukraine, reaching Kyiv on Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has questioned Ukraine’s right to exist and said it needs to be “denazified.”

“There is no rationale, except to take Ukraine under control, under the whole of Russia,” said Korniychuk. “There is no other rationale.”

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