Ukraine Looking Into Private Arms Deals in Israel

The inquiries come from a Ukrainian delegation, which has been in Israel for about a week, although the government is unlikely to approve any such deals after it declined to provide military assistance to Kyiv

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A Ukrainian soldier walks past burnt out vehicles, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Kolychivka, outside Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
A Ukrainian soldier walks past burnt out vehicles, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Kolychivka, outside Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.Credit: MARKO DJURICA/ REUTERS

Given Israel's official refusal to provide military assistance to Ukraine, a Ukrainian delegation has been looking into buying weapons from private Israeli businesspeople, according to sources present at a meeting with the group, though such transactions are unlikely to materialize.

The delegation, which has been in Israel for about a week, recently discussed ways to conduct arms deals outside official state-to-state channels in a meeting with a former senior Israel Defense Forces officer, who now owns a security consultancy firm.

The Ukrainians inquired at that meeting whether they could buy weapons and ammunition from private dealers, according to sources who attended. The officer told them he is not involved in these matters, but that any such deal would require Defense Ministry approval.

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The Defense Ministry committee that issues arms-export licenses is unlikely to approve any private export deals to Ukraine at this juncture, according to officials in the Foreign Ministry who take part in discussions held by the committee.

Ukrainian soldiers during a training exercise near Lviv, western Ukraine, March.Credit: Nariman El-Mofty / AP

Two senior Ukrainian sources said that Israel froze all arms export licenses to Ukraine when the Russian invasion began. The Defense Ministry, which has a policy of refraining from commenting on arms deals, declined to respond to the claim.

Members of the Ukrainian delegation also met last week with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin and Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy. While they also requested meetings with Israeli defense officials, it appears no such meetings have taken place.

The delegation’s senior members are Serhiy Shefir, who is one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s senior aides; Olha Vasylevska-Smahliuk, a member of Ukraine’s parliament; and Hennadii Nadolenko, a former Ukrainian ambassador to Israel. Shefir was formerly the director of Studio Kvartal 95, the entertainment company in which Zelenskyy, a former television actor and comic, rose to fame.

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