Israel’s foreign minister visits Kyiv as pressure mounts over military aid

Israel’s foreign minister travelled to Kyiv for the first public visit to Ukraine by a senior Israeli official since Russia’s invasion last year.

But there were no signs that Israel was preparing to significantly increase its modest support for Ukraine or meet requests to provide weapons.

Foreign minister Eli Cohen’s visit came just before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion and as Western nations seek to increase aid to the country.

Since the outbreak of the war, Israel has walked a tightrope between assisting Ukraine and avoiding friction with Russia, with which it shares strategic regional interests.

Unlike other western countries, Israel has not imposed sanctions on Russia or Russian officials or provided Ukraine with weapons.

It has provided humanitarian support to Ukraine, including a field hospital, and pledged to provide air raid warning systems.

Mr Cohen met Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who said on Twitter afterwards that he was “thankful for all of the support that Israel and Israelis have provided over the past year”.

“During our detailed and frank talks, we focused on ways to enhance bilateral relations, increase assistance, and address shared security challenges,” he said.

Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, said that Israel “again assured us that they will bring the early warning system, but they didn’t say when”.

Mr Cohen was also scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and leaders of the country’s Jewish community as part of the brief trip.

“We’re here on an important visit of solidarity with the Ukrainian nation, which has certainly endured a very hard time in the past year,” Mr Cohen said during a visit to a mass grave memorial in Bucha, outside Kyiv.

He said Israel has supported Ukraine and provided humanitarian aid, and would continue to do so.

Mr Cohen was reminded of the hardships endured by Ukrainians when air raid sirens sounded as he entered the country’s Foreign Ministry.

Israel maintains good working relations with both warring countries, and has large populations of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.

Israel also relies on security coordination with Russia over neighboring Syria, where Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against Iranian military positions in the past decade.

Russian warplanes also operate in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russia and Israel maintain communication to avoid conflict.

As other Western nations step up assistance to Ukraine, pressure has built on Israel to share some of its sophisticated military resources with Ukraine, including from the US.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said following a meeting with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem last month, that he had emphasised “the importance of providing support for all of Ukraine’s needs – humanitarian, economic, and security”.

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