Israel Embassy Reopening In Kyiv Despite Massive Russian Attacks
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Israel’s minister of foreign affairs said in Kyiv on Thursday that Israel’s embassy was resuming full operations in the Ukrainian capital, despite massive Russian attacks.
The announcement by Eli Cohen, the first Israeli minister to visit Ukraine since the war began nearly a year ago, was a symbolic gesture of support for Ukraine as Israel vowed to continue extending humanitarian aid to the country.
“Israel stands firmly in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and remains committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Cohen said during a press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.
He also spoke of strengthening relations between the two countries. Cohen said Israel would support a Ukrainian peace initiative at the UN and help secure up to $200m for healthcare and infrastructure projects.
He did not yet commit to Ukraine’s request for direct military aid. Israel has been reluctant to upset Russia, which has an extensive military presence in Syria, where the Israeli military seeks to strike at militants and suspected terrorists.
However, in February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was looking into military aid for Ukraine, but Moscow warned that could lead to an escalation of the armed conflict.
Despite Russia firing missiles, Cohen managed to pay his respects at Kyiv’s Babi Yar memorial to almost 34,000 Jews massacred in 1941 while the city was under Nazi occupation.
Israel also emphasized its special ties with Moscow, and over a million Israeli citizens have origins in the former Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was part till declaring independence in 1991.
Cohen arrived while on Thursday, the military said Russia had fired 36 missiles from land and sea, killing at least one woman while hitting critical infrastructures.
The missiles struck after some six Russian balloons were spotted over Kyiv, though most were shot down, Ukraine’s military claimed.
Images circulating on social media showed an unsophisticated design, with a radar-reflecting, cross-shaped structure trailing under the balloon suspended by a line.
Balloons with reflectors have also been seen over the eastern region of Dnipropetrovsk in recent days. “These objects could carry radar reflectors and certain reconnaissance equipment,” said air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat. “The balloons were launched to detect and exhaust our air defense forces.”
And there was more bad news for Ukraine, with Belarus threatening to fight alongside ally Russia “if another country launches an attack against it.” Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko made the warning while talking to foreign reporters.
Lukashenko, who has repeatedly denied claims from Kyiv and the West that his country could be dragged further into the conflict in Ukraine on the side of Moscow, said he planned to meet the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday.
It comes as Putin seeks military and political support from Belarus, which already served as a launchpad for the invasion of Ukraine.
Putin needs Belarus as he faced even more isolation Thursday, with the European Union saying it was “on a good track” to adopt new sanctions.
Brussels wants to impose the additional punitive measures in time for the anniversary of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine on February 24.
The EU’s executive European Commission seeks to ban the export of vital technology to Russia worth 11 billion euros to weaken the Kremlin’s war effort further.
As the talks on sanctions were underway, Russia’s foreign ministry said it was expelling four diplomats from EU member state Austria. Moscow claimed Austria had undertaken an “unfriendly and unjustified step” and was ruining its previous position as a respected, unbiased, and neutral state.
The move comes after Austria’s foreign ministry said this month it was expelling four Russian diplomats for behaving “in a manner inconsistent with international agreements,” a reason often invoked in spying cases.
Meantime, Norway’s parliament announced it would donate 75 billion kroner ($7.3 billion) to Ukraine as part of a five-year support package, making the oil-rich country one of the world’s biggest donors to Kyiv.
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