Russia-Ukraine war: Zelensky blames Israel for Iran's alliance with Moscow
“This alliance of theirs would simply not have happened if your politicians had made only one decision at the time - the decision we asked for,” Zelensky said during a video conference organised by the Haaretz daily.
Iran has reportedly delivered hundreds of Mohajer-6 and Shahed-136 combat drones to Russia. The presence of Iranian drones in Ukraine’s battlefields has picked up in recent weeks, with Russia responding to setbacks in its military campaign by launching massive strikes on Kyiv.
Israel has repeatedly turned down Ukrainian requests for military assistance against Russia's invasion. Israel has supplied humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Axios reported last week that the Ukrainian government had sent Israel an official request for the Iron Dome air defence system to counter Iranian ballistic missiles and attack drones used by Russia.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz ruled out military aid to Ukraine, following comments by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that such a move was “reckless”.
"Israel appears to be getting ready to supply weapons to the Kyiv regime. A very reckless move. It would destroy all bilateral relations between our countries," he said in a statement on Telegram.
Israel says its policy is based on maintaining working relations with Russia in order to have freedom of movement in Syria’s airspace to strike Iranian targets. Russia maintains missile defence systems in Syria.
Zelensky said that Israel has been ignoring Ukraine since 2014, when it says Russia began its aggression against its western neighbour.
“I emphasise, we have been asking Israel for help since 2014,” the Ukrainian leader said, referring to the year when Russia annexed Crimea, and fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists.
'Off the sidelines'
Zelensky made a direct plea to the Israeli people: “Isn’t it time for your state to choose who you are with?” he said.
“Is it with the democratic world, which is fighting side by side against the existential threat to its existence? Or with those who turn a blind eye to Russian terror, even when the cost of continued terror is the complete destruction of global security?”
Zelensky reiterated Washington’s claim that Iranian instructors have been sent to Crimea to train Russian soldiers on drones. He also argued that Israel’s security concerns in Syria were being advanced by Ukraine, as Russia’s military presence in the country “has been significantly reduced” as a result of the war in Europe.
“Unfortunately, we do not have our own ‘Iron Dome.’ We still do not have a modern and effective air defence and missile defence system that could secure our skies,” he said.
He also said that Russian payment for the drones could help Iran develop its nuclear programme.
“I have a question for you. How does Russia pay Iran for this, in your opinion? Is Iran just interested in money? Probably not money at all, but Russian assistance to the Iranian nuclear programme.”
“Probably, this is exactly the meaning of their alliance."
Zelensky’s comments follow criticism of Israel from US Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, for not doing enough to support Ukraine.
“Israel needs to get off the sidelines. Israel is a part of the community of democracies and it needs to stand up for Ukrainian democracy,” Murphy said in a CNN interview last week.
“I just don’t buy that countries like Israel need to play both sides. This is a moment where you have to take a side and you have to stand with the people of Ukraine.”