Israel has turned down requests for aerial defense systems from Ukraine, which has also yet to receive systems promised by Germany and the US, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky complained Thursday.
In addition to the US, Ukraine is “talking with France, Italy, Germany and Israel, though we have not received a positive reaction from the latter [Israel]. There are not many countries capable of guaranteeing sky protection to us in terms of air defense. This issue is to be solved around these five countries,” the Ukrainian leader said in a joint news conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to CNN.
The defense systems, he said, are necessary to protect civilian infrastructure from Russian attack.
The call for defense systems came after Russian missiles damaged a dam in Kryvyi Rih, Zelensky’s hometown, on Wednesday, damaging the city’s water infrastructure and causing over 100 homes to flood.
Israel has been reluctant to sell both offensive and advanced defensive systems to Kyiv on the grounds that such deliveries would harm Jerusalem’s sensitive relations with Moscow.
Israel has sought to preserve ties with Russia, especially due to the Russian military presence in neighboring Syria, where the Israeli Air Force has regularly struck Iranian-linked targets.
Relations between Jerusalem and Moscow appeared to fray several months ago as Jerusalem became increasingly more outspoken in support of Ukraine. Russia, like Ukraine, also has a large Jewish community.
Prior to Russia’s invasion, Israel also reportedly sank a plan by the US to supply Ukraine with the Iron Dome, an Israeli anti-missile defense system developed with US funding that has been sold to several other countries.
While refraining from sending weapons, Israel has supplied Ukraine with basic defense equipment such as helmets and protective vests, along with humanitarian aid like medicine and blankets. In July, Israel began providing direct financial support for civil aid organizations operating in the war-torn country. It also operated a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks before closing in April.
The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site Zman Yisrael reported Monday that an Israeli defense contractor is supplying anti-drone systems to Ukraine’s military by way of Poland. A source in the firm told Zman that the equipment was being sold to Poland to circumvent Israel’s refusal to sell advanced arms to Ukraine.
Ukraine has rapidly regained territory on its eastern front since it began its offensive attack earlier this week. Eastern provinces under both Ukrainian and Russian control have also lost power and suffered damage to other civilian infrastructure, which Ukraine has blamed on Russia.
Addressing Thursday’s news conference, commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Ukraine, as well as Moldova, is “on track” to join the European Union, and that EU member countries will vote on Ukraine’s candidacy next week.
“It’s impressive to see the speed, the determination, the preciseness with which you are progressing,” she said.
Agencies contributed to this report.