Feb 3, 2022 - World

Israeli foreign minister's Ukraine-Russia comments spark diplomatic spat

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in October 2021.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in October 2021. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/Picture alliance via Getty Images

The Ukrainian ambassador to Israel in a Facebook post Thursday attacked Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid over comments he made to Axios in which he said a Russian invasion in Ukraine was not imminent.

Driving the news: Lapid on Wednesday told Axios that Israel doesn’t think there will be a violent confrontation between Russia and Ukraine anytime soon. "I also don’t think a world war is about to start there," he said.

  • A day later, Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk wrote in a post published on the embassy's Facebook page that he is "deeply appalled" by Lapid's comments.
  • “I would like to remind Mr. Minister that it is not a conflict - it is a WAR, that Russia aggressively and cynically conducts against Ukraine," the Ukrainian ambassador wrote.
  • Shortly after the post, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Korniychuk for a meeting Friday to reprimand him over the post, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official told me.

What they're saying: In the Facebook post, Korniychuk also said that it is a shame Lapid “has not noticed the war in the center of Europe which lasts for eight years already” and accused Lapid of reiterating Russian propaganda.

  • Lapid "ignores the disturbing messages from his own strongest allies – USA, Britain and EU regarding the high possibility of full scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine in coming weeks," the ambassador added.
  • He also wrote that Lapid should find time to speak to his Ukrainian counterpart in order “to see the real picture” and not only speak to Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The big picture: In recent years, and especially in recent weeks, Israel has tried to stay neutral and maintain good relations with both Ukraine and Russia.

  • Last October, it offered to hold a Russia-Ukraine summit in Jerusalem.

Go deeper: Satellite images show Russia's military buildup near Ukraine

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