Zelensky hails ‘positive trend’ in Israel ties after intel sharing on Iranian drones

‘After a long pause, I see us moving forward,’ Ukrainian president says of relations with Jerusalem, which he has strongly criticized for not supplying air defense systems

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference with his Guinea-Bissau counterpart following their talks in Kyiv on October 26, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference with his Guinea-Bissau counterpart following their talks in Kyiv on October 26, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday 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 come two days 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.

But on Wednesday, speaking during a joint press conference with his counterpart from Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, Zelensky stated that Ukraine and Israel were now sharing key information.

“The intelligence data, which is now being discussed, once again confirms what our intelligence was aware of — around 400 Iranian drones have already been used against the civilian population of Ukraine, 60-70 percent of them have been shot down.”

Composite image shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and Prime Minister Yair Lapid, right. (AP/Andrew Kravchenko, Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

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.

The reasoning behind the decision appears to be Israel’s 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.

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.”

Zelensky alluded to Israeli concerns regarding Iran during a speech Monday to a conference organized by the Haaretz daily, saying the Russian military presence in Syria “has been significantly reduced,” as Moscow moves to send reinforcements to counter Ukrainian advances.

According to Zelensky, Russia ordered around 2,000 drones from Iran, the same kind that Kyiv said Moscow used in its recent attacks against Ukraine.

This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)

“The disgusting sound of Iranian drones is heard in our skies every night. According to our intelligence, Russia ordered about 2,000 ‘Shaheds’ from Iran,” he said.

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.

Despite rebuking the Jewish state’s leaders in his Monday remarks, Zelensky thanked the Israeli public for its support of his country.

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