Oct 24, 2022 - World

Zelensky slams Israel, suggests Russia will help Iran with its nuclear program


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 23. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday criticized Israel and suggested that Russia will help Iran with its nuclear program in exchange for providing Moscow with drones and missiles for its war in Ukraine.

Why it matters: Ukraine has asked Israel to provide it with air defense systems, with Ukrainian officials pointing to Russia's use of Iranian-made drones in the war.

  • Israel has given Ukraine humanitarian aid and helmets and bulletproof vests, but it has so far refrained from providing advanced weaponry and defensive weapon systems to Ukraine, fearing a clash with Russia that could harm Israel’s security interests in Syria.

What they're saying: “How does Russia pay Iran for this, in your opinion? Is Iran just interested in money? Probably not money at all, but Russian assistance to the Iranian nuclear program. Probably, this is exactly the meaning of their alliance," Zelensky said in a recorded speech at a conference of the Israeli Haaretz newspaper.

  • The Ukrainian president claimed the alliance between Russia and Iran would not have happened if Israel had made a decision to provide air defense systems to Ukraine when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 — a decision Zelensky said was made under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and hasn't changed under the current Israeli government.
  • “This is the decision of your governments … not to annoy the Kremlin, which was adopted a long time ago," Zelensky said.
  • "If we had immediately secured our skies when faced with a missile and drone threat, Russia would not even have a motive now to go to Iran and offer it something in exchange for assistance in terror."

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke on the phone on Monday with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov and stressed Israel stands with the Ukrainian people and the West. He expressed his commitment to supporting Ukraine via the delivery of humanitarian aid and life-saving defense equipment, Gantz’ office said.

  • But “Gantz emphasized the operational limitations faced by the State of Israel. As a result, Israel will not provide weapon systems to Ukraine," his office added.
  • Instead, the ministers agreed to conduct professional dialogue in order to assist Ukraine in the development of a civilian early warning system, the Israeli statement said.

What to watch: Zelensky said that according to Ukraine’s intelligence services, Russia has ordered 2,000 Shahed-136 Kamikaze drones from Iran in addition to ballistic missiles and other kinds of drones.

  • He said that Iranian instructors are on the ground and are training Russian forces on how to use the drones.
  • Iran has repeatedly denied providing such weapons to Moscow, despite reports by Ukrainian, U.S. and other Western officials that the Iranian-made drones have been shot down in Ukraine.
Go deeper