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Russia-Ukraine war: Israel rules out arms sales to Kyiv following Moscow warning

Defence minister says Israel's policy would not be changing after Russia warned such a move would be 'reckless'
People gather in Tel Aviv to mark Ukraine's Independence Day from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the six-month anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 24 August 2022 (AFP)
People gather in Tel Aviv to mark Ukraine's Independence Day from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the six-month anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 24 August 2022 (AFP)

Israel will not send weapons to bolster Ukrainian resistance against Russia, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday, following warnings from Russia that such a move would harm its relations with Tel Aviv.

Gantz, who has struggled to maintain Israel's relative neutrality since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, told a briefing of European Union ambassadors that its policy would not be altering.

"Our policy vis-a-vis Ukraine will not change - we will continue to support and stand with the West, we will not provide weapon systems," he said, according to a statement from his office.

He added that his country would continue providing "humanitarian aid" and "life-saving defensive equipment" to Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have been pressing for Israel to support them with weaponry, citing the support given to Russia by Israel's regional arch-rival Iran.

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According to Ukrainian media, Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday that Kyiv would be asking Israel for air defence systems.

"If Israel's policy is really to consistently counter Iran's destructive actions, then it is time for Israel to openly side with Ukraine," he said.

Axios reported that the Ukrainian government on Tuesday sent Israel an official request for the Iron Dome air defence system to counter Iranian ballistic missiles and Iranian attack drones used by Russia.

Ukraine also asked for other systems including the Iron Beam, Barak-8, Patriot, David's Sling, Arrow Interceptor missile systems, and requested Israeli support in training for Ukrainian operators.

"According to available information ... there is a high probability of prompt deliveries to the Russian Federation of Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from Iran," said a letter sent by the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, obtained by Axios.

In recent weeks, Iran has made headlines for reportedly supplying Russia with armed drones.

The prevalence 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 needs Russian cooperation, however, in order to continue its campaign of air strikes against Iranian-backed forces and government targets in neighbouring Syria, which is backed by Moscow and hosts Russian military bases. This, along with other diplomatic concerns, has made Israel cautious about upsetting its relations with Russia.

On Monday, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's former president and prime minister, charged that "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.

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