Russia summons Israeli envoy for rebuke over comments by ambassador to Ukraine

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Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Israel’s top envoy to Moscow for a meeting on Tuesday as part of an ongoing spat over comments by Israel’s envoy in Ukraine.

In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said that it summoned Israeli chargé d’Affaires Ronen Kraus to issue a complaint about remarks made last week by Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky, who said that he could understand why many Ukrainians revere former Nazi accomplices as heroes for fighting against the Soviet Union.

The statement emphasized that “whitewashing” of such figures is unacceptable and that Russia and Israel have worked together in the past to “rebuff attempts to rewrite history,” slamming those who praise Nazi collaborators in an attempt to “encourage Russophobic sentiments.”

Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused Brodsky of “glorifying Nazism.”

“If in Brodsky’s opinion Kyiv has the right to heroes like that, then it is a problem for the Israeli Foreign Ministry,” Zakharova added.

Asked for a comment on Tuesday’s meeting, Israel’s Foreign Ministry pointed to its statement from last week following Zakharova’s comments: “There is no change in Israel’s policy, which is absolutely opposed to and rejects the glorification of criminals who collaborated with the Nazis in murdering Jews,” ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said at the time. “No party should lecture the State of Israel, Israel’s Foreign Ministry, or its diplomats about the importance of preserving the memory of the Holocaust or about the war on historical distortion.”

The meeting comes as Israel faces sharp criticism from both Moscow and Kyiv as it attempts to maintain ties with both allies while they remain engaged in a bitter conflict.

Ukraine’s special Middle East envoy Maksym Subkh (L) and Israel’s Ambassador Michael Brodsky (C) greet Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at the train station in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 16, 2023. (Lazar Berman/The Times of Israel)

Jerusalem has been castigated over its decision to continue to engage with Russia after it invaded Ukraine, and its refusal to provide military aid to Kyiv. Israel has long maintained that it needs to maintain contact with Moscow in order to coordinate activity in Syria, and that it has sent repeated waves of medical and other assistance to Ukraine since the war began.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk issued a blistering criticism of Israeli policy, accusing it of adopting “a clear pro-Russian position.”

Korniychuk also said Israel “has been dead silent regarding the regular antisemitic statements made by Putin and his minions.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed recently that Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, is viewed by his coreligionists as a “disgrace” to the faith. Earlier this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that even if Zelensky is Jewish, it is meaningless because even Hitler had “Jewish blood.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned Korniychuk for a meeting scheduled for next week to protest his “repeated statements against Israeli policy.”

In a briefing to reporters on Sunday, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen responded to some of Korniychuk’s claims, saying that “despite the complexities vis-à-vis Russia, Israel has stood by Ukraine’s side since the outbreak of the war until today and has even voted in international forums in favor of condemning Russia.” Cohen added that Israel has sent Ukraine “unprecedented humanitarian aid [NIS 80 million, approximately $22 million] with a higher sum earmarked for this year.”

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska paid a visit to Israel last week, meeting with President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, as well as Sara Netanyahu and a range of Israeli figures in the fields of trauma and rehabilitation.

Cohen reportedly told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is favorably considering an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Kyiv — a move sure to anger Moscow.

“There’s no date, but there’s a good chance that it’ll happen,” Cohen was quoted as saying.

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