Just days after the first meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Ukraine's ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk sharply attacked Israel Monday, saying that it is simply afraid of Russia.
"Israel must constantly bomb Iranian bases in Syria, and it is forced to coordinate its efforts with the Russians. The other arguments we hear do not stand the test of reality," Korniychuk told the Ukrainian news site Gordon.
"There are many different arguments, sometimes strange ones. Netanyahu said they can't transfer weapons to us because they could reach the Iranians through Russia. This does not hold water when it comes to air defense. This weapon is located deep in our territory, and there is no chance of it falling into the hands of the Russians," he said.
The ambassador also claimed that the level of cooperation between Israel and Russia remains high, and trade between the countries has even increased in the past year. Another example he gave is the cooperation agreement in the field of cinema that was signed between the two countries at the beginning of the month.
"It was explained to us as an unfortunate mistake … (but) it is clear that these are deliberate steps. Business as usual," said Korniychuk. "I am not satisfied with the actions of the Israeli government, and I speak about it openly. In my opinion, on one hand, the Israeli government is telling us how it sympathizes with us and helps us, and on the other hand there is full cooperation with the Russian Federation. This has not stopped for a single day."
According to Korniychuk, cooperation with Russia is "a serious mistake by the Israeli government, and the Israeli public is protesting against it. Everyone sees what is happening in Ukraine." He added that "we didn't criticize the Israeli side much, for example, for the fact that the direct flights to Moscow continue. They explain that they need to evacuate Israeli citizens first. Okay, let's assume it's a humanitarian issue. But issues of culture, issues of political consultations that took place this year in Jerusalem and also In Moscow - it does not hold up under criticism."
Alongside the harsh criticism Korniychuk said that Kyiv was satisfied with the meeting with Netanyahu in which "we were able to discuss issues that could not be discussed over the phone," but also estimated that it would take a long time for Ukraine to see actual results from the meeting. "Issues of protecting civilians and dismantling mines definitely were raised at the meeting," according to the ambassador, who also noted out that currently there is no point in discussing military cooperation with Israel.
One of the significant promises that Israel gave to Ukraine is to supply a Code Red early warning system for the protection of civilians. Korniychuk revealed significant progress toward implementation of the system. "Unfortunately, the process is not over yet, but an inspection should take place at the end of September in Kyiv," the ambassador noted. "In the future, I think all cities and towns will be able to take advantage of this system. It can be fully implemented on Ukrainian territory and be very useful."
Along with the missile warning system, Korniychuk said that "this week I received confirmation that only technical details remain for obtaining Israeli equipment to remove mines in the near future," adding: "These are robots that will make life easier for us. Our problem is that it will take quite a long time to clear these vast areas."
The Ukrainian ambassador described how cooperation with Israel works, noting that "simply calling for humanism and solidarity is not enough. We must look for common interests or threats, and this is precisely what leads us to close cooperation." Korniychuk adds: "After all, one of the issues Zelensky and Netanyahu discussed was the issue of cooperation against the threat from Iran."
Korniychuk said that he brought from Kiev to Jerusalem a Shahad, an Iranian suicide drone that Tehran is supplying to Moscow for the needs of the war in Ukraine. "I brought this to Netanyahu as a gift," the ambassador said. Netanyahu responded, according to Korniychuk, " 'If we don't cooperate, he will strike us too.' Therefore, this is the subject of our joint consultations and that is what unites us."
Netanyahu's meeting with Zelensky, which took place a week ago, was the first with an Israeli prime minister since the outbreak of the war with Russia . Zelensky said at the beginning of the meeting that he "expects a lot from Israel, but there are not many problems in the relationship." When Netanyahu was asked what his expectations were from the meeting with the Ukrainian president, he replied: "Silence is worth its weight in gold." There was tension on both sides, but at the end of the meeting Zelensky noted that it "was good."
At the end of the meeting, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that it "was friendly." Netanyahu also reportedly "clarified that Israel will continue to assist Ukraine in humanitarian issues, including dealing with anti-personnel mines." Zelensky added at the end of the meeting that "the talks were focused on the topic of cooperation - including in the field of civil defense." He also said: "I mentioned to Netanyahu the fact that Russia is attacking cities, ports and critical infrastructure using Iranian drones - and we share a concern about the growing military cooperation between Russia and Iran."
Netanyahu is the only Western leader in the world, apart from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who did not come to Kiev. During the meeting, the topic came up, and Zelensky explicitly asked Netanyahu to come. So far, the Prime Minister's Office has avoided the visit for security reasons, but the Ukrainians say that if Biden was able to come, there is no reason why Netanyahu should not come. The Israeli Foreign Ministry strongly advised Netanyahu to visit.