By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM -The Ukrainian envoy to Israel voiced frustration on Monday with its refusal to provide what his country deems defensive aid against Russia, donning a helmet at a news conference and asking rhetorically how such equipment could be regarded as lethal.
But Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk also voiced gratitude for Israel’s efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, saying this outweighed any possible military assistance from it.
While condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel has limited itself to humanitarian relief and kept up contacts with Moscow. Israel coordinates strikes against Iranian deployments in Syria with Russia’s military garrison there, and is mindful of the big power’s sway over nuclear talks with Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held surprise talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, casting the three-hour meeting as a peacemaking bid at which Iran was discussed too. The Kremlin has not commented.
“Everyone must do everything, everything in their capacity to stop this terrible human tragedy, which no one thought we would see in our lifetimes,” Bennett said in a TV interview, offering no more details on the Moscow talks.
Koriychuk said Bennett had pledged to try to mediate “even if there is just one percent (chance) of success”.
“This is much more important than, for example, sales of weapons or munitions, et cetera, that we are still fighting (about) with the Israeli government,” the diplomat said, adding that Kyiv understood Bennett’s limitations on the aid issue.
Still, Koriychuk noted that Ukraine also had an unmet request for Israeli protective vests and helmets, one of which he stood to place on his head as he spoke.
“Please tell me, how you can kill with this thing? This is simply not possible. So I don’t know what these people are afraid of. To provide personal security for Ukrainians … that’s the simplest thing they can do.”
Russia has said anyone providing lethal weaponry for Ukraine to use in the fighting “will bear responsibility”.