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Russia-Ukraine war: US official warns Israel against becoming 'haven for dirty money'

Rebuke comes as reports emerge that jet belonging to Israeli-Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich landed in Israel on Sunday
People wave Ukrainian and Israeli flags during a protest in Israel's Tel Aviv against Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, on 12 March 2022 (AFP)

The US has urged Israel to crack down on Russian oligarchs as Washington and its allies continue with efforts to isolate Vladimir Putin and his allies from the global financial system, following the invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 12 News, Victoria Nuland, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, said Israel should join the financial and export-control sanctions that Washington has imposed on Putin.

"You don't want to become the last haven for dirty money that's fuelling Putin's wars," Nuland said. "So whatever Israel is able to do, Ukrainians would welcome and the international coalition in support of Ukraine would welcome.

"We have to squeeze the regime. We have to deny it the income that it needs, squeeze the oligarchs around him; we squeeze its economy," she said.

Russia-Ukraine war: Israel says it will uphold sanctions against Moscow
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Nuland said that Israel joining the financial sanctions was most important to the US, more so than gestures such as Israel potentially providing military aid or playing a role in mediation efforts between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

So far, Israel has tried to balance between supporting Ukraine and not irking Moscow, whose tacit approval it relies on to conduct air attacks against Iran and its proxies in Syria.

Zelensky has repeatedly asked Israel to supply Ukraine with weapons and military aid. He has also compared Russia’s invasion of his country to the Nazi German army steamrolling across Europe.

In recent days, reports have circulated of at least 14 Russian private jets landing at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. The move comes as western governments have launched sanctions targeting the Russian elite and their pricy assets.

Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich was spotted at Tel Aviv airport on Monday shortly before a jet linked to him reportedly took off for Istanbul, Reuters reported.

Israel has previously said it will prevent Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the US from keeping their planes and yachts in Israel, but is unable to stop Abramovich, who holds Israeli, as well as Russian and Portuguese citizenship, from entering the country.

In a sign of the growing pressure on Israel to join western efforts, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday that his country would not be used by Russia to circumvent sanctions.

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