Ukrainian ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry for an official reprimand following comments he made accusing Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of sharing Kremlin propaganda regarding his country’s eight-year conflict with Russia.
Speaking with American news outlet Axios last week, Lapid said that Israeli officials — who have been involved in behind-the-scenes de-escalation efforts — “don’t see a violent confrontation soon,” adding that “we have a duty to act with caution about the Russia-Ukraine crisis that no other country has.”
Israel is currently attempting to balance its relations with both Moscow and Kyiv as Russia masses over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, threatening to reignite a simmering conflict that has largely degenerated into static trench warfare in recent years.
In response, Ambassador Korniychuk posted on Facebook that he was “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. It is a shame, that Mr. Lapid has not noticed the war in the center of Europe which lasts for eight years already,” he wrote.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Minister reiterates rhetoric of Russian propaganda and ignores the disturbing massages from his own strongest allies – USA, Britain and EU regarding the high possibility of full scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine in coming weeks.”
After the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and fomented and backed a separatist insurgency in the country’s east, which has claimed more than 14,000 lives and displaced millions, including tens of thousands of refugees who immigrated to Israel.
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The United States and Western allies have warned that Russia is planning a military incursion, while Russia has demanded security guarantees from the West, including that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO.
Korniychuk was subsequently summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem for an official dressing down last Thursday.
The diplomat spat came only days after Jerusalem walked back its plan to cut hazard pay at its embassy in Kyiv amid the ongoing Russia crisis after employees shut down the embassy and announced a strike.
Last Monday, following the ministry's decision to cut salaries for diplomats and other staffers at the embassy despite the massive Russian troop buildup on the country's border, Deputy Ambassador Yoav Bistritsky announced that the Israeli delegation had decided to close down the embassy in Kyiv for everything except essential services.
The ministry's decision initially came last July, reversing a policy to pay Ukraine employees an extra 4 percent monthly hardship bonus that had been in place since the Russian takeover of Crimea in 2014.
“Not only it was canceled, but they took it [out of their paychecks] retroactively from January 2021,” a diplomatic source told Haaretz on condition of anonymity last week. It’s unbelievable. They live on another planet.”
Israel recently called on its citizens in Ukraine to register with the embassy in Kyiv so they can be contacted quickly in case of an emergency, and late last month senior officials in Jerusalem held a briefing to discuss the level of threat to Jewish communities in Ukraine and the possibility that Israel will facilitate an evacuation program.