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Israeli PM Netanyahu Will ‘Think About How He Can Help’ Ukraine With Defense, Says Zelensky

avatar by Ben Cohen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Jerusalem in Jan. 2020. Photo: Reuters/Oded Balilty

Ukraine’s president has said that newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to review Jerusalem’s stance on the supply of weaponry to his country.

Meeting with Ukrainian journalists on Thursday, Volodymyr Zelensky said he had spoken to Netanyahu and asked him to reconsider Israel’s policy. The Jewish state has mounted an extensive humanitarian aid campaign in Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion last February but has been reluctant to supply military aid, out of concern that this might weaken Israel’s position in neighboring Syria, where both Russia and its ally Iran maintain a military presence.

“The shift is that we have returned to contact with Netanyahu,” Zelensky said at the press conference according to multiple local media sources. “We had a normal substantive conversation, because the list of subjects was provided by our side. We conveyed all the nuances related to air defense. This is priority number one.”

Zelensky emphasized that Ukraine was not asking the Israelis to provide offensive weaponry. “We are only interested in defense systems,” he said.

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The Ukrainian leader added that Netanyahu had “assured me that he would deal with this issue as soon as possible, or think about how he can help, and will return with an answer.”

Netanyahu has previously intimated that he might revisit Israel’s reluctance to add a military dimension to its humanitarian initiatives. “I was asked about that recently,” the Israeli leader told USA Today in October, one week before the Israeli elections. “And I said I’ll look into it when I got into office.”

Zelensky’s comments came as the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel issued another appeal for military assistance, citing the deadly Russian missile attacks in Kyiv and across the country that have continued throughout this week.

“The devil in the form of Putin’s army continued his war crimes and fired more than 100 rockets at major cities of Ukraine,” the statement declared. “This caused the death of six people, 17 were injured, and serious damage to the infrastructure was also recorded. Millions of people cannot be allowed to live in constant fear!”

The statement asserted that it was “unacceptable to remain aloof at a time when the entire country is being destroyed! Ukraine cannot be left without protection!”

In a separate development, Ukrainian officials said they had discovered the bodies of more than 60 people in the newly-liberated city of Kherson that bore signs of torture. Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky told the BBC that the investigation into crimes there had only just begun, “so many more dungeons and burial places will be uncovered.”

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