Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba apologized to El Al on Tuesday, less than a day after accusing the Israeli airline of accepting payments via a Russian banking system, Mir, which he said was "designed to evade sanctions" and allow it to make "money soaked in Ukrainian blood.”
The strongly worded criticism from Ukraine's top diplomat was the most concrete sign yet of Kyiv's anger over Israel's policy since the beginning of the Russian invasion.
Israel was slower than other U.S.-aligned democracies to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion, and has so far not placed sanctions on Russia, at least in part due to concerns over any Russian response that would limit the Israeli military's freedom to act against Iranian-backed forces in Syria.
While several Ukrainians officials have expressed disappointment with the Israeli position, none have done so in such stark terms as in Kuleba's tweet on El Al, which the company said was "misleading."
El Al stressed in a statement that it has blocked payment via Mir last week, adding that it "regrets" that Kuleba or his staff did not check the matter with them "prior to the misleading tweet."
Throughout the crisis, El Al said, it has been operating "in full coordination with the Israeli government," and has "rescued thousands of Jews and Israelis from Kyiv."
The company also stated that it operates flights to Russia at the request of the Israeli government.
- Israel to Limit Number of non-Jewish Ukrainian Refugees
- Israel Warns Ministers Russian Oligarchs May Try to Use Them to Evade Sanctions
- In Israel, ‘Never Again’ Only Refers to Jews
Israel has thus far refrained from publicly commenting on the tweet by the Ukrainian minister. While Kuleba's statement was blunt and harsh, it follows other remarks by the Ukrainian leadership, which has not hesitated to publicly criticize Israel since the war started.
Just last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy chided Bennett for "not being wrapped in the Ukrainian flag," and Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk protested Israel's unwillingness to provide Ukraine with helmets and shields.
A senior Israeli official made it clear last week that Israel was not expected to join the sanctions against Russia, saying it was due to lack of proper legislation to enable enforcement of such decisions upon the private sector.
Instead, in light of an American request, the Bank of Israel is monitoring attempts by senior Russian figures hit by the sanctions to move their accounts to Israel. In addition, Israel said it was committed to preventing long-term parking of private jets or yachts owned by Russia oligarchs who may be seeking to evade sanctions.