Ukraine’s intelligence services are “cooperating very closely” with their Israeli counterparts, one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s top aides said Thursday, even as he complained that Kyiv has not received all of the security assistance it has requested from Israel to fend off Russia's invasion.
"Our intelligence is cooperating very closely with Israeli intelligence,” Andriy Yermak, head of Zelenskyy's office, told reporters during an online briefing.
“I have very big respect for the leaders of your intelligence services,” he said. “I know many of them personally. These are very big professionals and patriots of Israel and patriots of the whole free world. So I do know that our intelligence is satisfied with this cooperation, but of course there is always more that can be done," he said, describing Israel's intelligence community as "one of the best of the world."
While touting his own Jewish heritage and relatives in Israel, Yermak welcomed Jerusalem’s attempts at mediating between Ukraine and Russia, saying that he was “deeply impressed” by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s engagement with the issue and that he considered Jerusalem “as one of the priority venues for the meeting of President Zelenskyy with the president of the Russian Federation.”
“It is high time now for that meeting of the presidents to take place. The war has been going on for too long,” he said, adding that he hoped Israel could stand as a guarantor of any future agreement providing security guarantees for Ukraine and that, despite reports to the contrary, Bennett had not pressed Zelenskyy to accept Russian demands for territorial compromise.
“There hasn’t been any pressure,” he said, noting that while talks between the two sides are still difficult, Russia has softened its demands, although fundamental areas of disagreement remain, and the Ukrainian leadership now feels “very careful optimism.”
“There are things that we feel we can agree about” and while territorial concessions are off the table, the question of the occupied Donbas and Crimea can be discussed, he said.
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Yermak also asserted, echoing Zelenskyy’s recent Knesset address, that despite its mediation role, Israel can and should do more, saying that “we are expecting much bigger support from Israel” in terms of weapons and technology.”
“We have given clear expectations we need Iron Dome system and other types of weapons,” he said, referring to the missile defense system Israel uses to intercept rockets launched from Gaza and which some experts have said is not suitable for the type of conflict in which Ukraine now finds itself.
Asked about Wednesday’s report that Israel has repeatedly turned down Ukrainian requests for NSO’s Pegasus spyware, Yermak replied that “we have not received that software and I know that we do need it.”
During a Zoom interview earlier this week, Ukrainian minister of digital transformation Mykhailo Fedorov told Haaretz that his country “would definitely want” the spyware, which he said “would be instrumental.”
Responding to Israeli criticism of Zelenskyy's comparison between the Russian invasion and the Holocaust during his speech to Israel's Knesset on Monday, Yermak claimed “it’s 100% fake news and lies.”
“Listen to the words of the Kremlin. They are using the terminology of the Nazis,” Zelenskyy insisted in his speech. “The final solution to the Jewish question you well remember. Listen to what they are now saying in Moscow. Now these words are being used again, the Final Solution, but now it is directed at us, on the issue of Ukraine. They are speaking about this openly on official sites and in the media.”
“Zelenskyy has never compared [this to] the Holocaust of the Second World War, when millions of Jews were exterminated and I’d like to remind you that our President is a Jew and I have Jewish blood as well,” Yermak said. “There is no need to tell us, we understand the tragedy of the Jewish people. He never made that comparison. He was saying the Russians' behavior on our territory, destroying our cities and killing civilians, is very similar to what the Nazis were doing.”