Prominent Israeli businessman who fled Putin has critical advice for Jews in Russia

“The Jews must flee from Russia as soon as possible and Israel should stop doubting and send weapons to Ukraine,” warns Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin.

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

A prominent Russian-Israeli businessman who ran afoul of President Vladimir Putin has called on those Jews who remain in Russia to leave the country at the first opportunity.

In a post on his Telegram channel, Leonid Nevzlin — an energy executive and philanthropist who fled Russia for Israel in 2003 — cited last week’s announcement from the Russian ministry of justice that it is seeking to shutter the Jewish Agency’s operations in the country.

“Israel should have no illusions about Russia, which has become a country unfriendly to Jews,” Nevzlin wrote.

“It is enough to recall Lavrov’s antisemitic statements,” Nevzlin continued, referring to the outrage triggered in May by comments from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accusing Israel of backing “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine and opining that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler may have had “Jewish blood.”

Nevzlin said the initial court hearing on the closure of the Jewish Agency, scheduled for Thursday, marked a “new stage” in Russia’s offensive against its Jewish community.

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“The Jews must flee from Russia as soon as possible,” Nevzlin declared. “And Israel should stop doubting and send weapons to Ukraine. Protecting democracy is our common cause.”

Nevzlin argued that Russia’s desire to prevent the Jewish Agency from operating in Russia, where it assists Jews seeking to emigrate to Israel, was motivated by Putin’s fear of a “brain drain” of talented Russian citizens opposed to the invasion of Ukraine.

“But, as he often does lately, Putin will achieve the exact opposite: brains from Russia will not just flow, but will rush in a stream,” Nevzlin said. “This was already the case after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, which led to a new, ‘Putin’s aliyah’ – a stream of Russian Jews who no longer want to have anything to do with that country.”

Nevzlin himself renounced his Russian citizenship two weeks after the invasion was launched. “I am against the war, I am against occupation, and I am against exterminating the Ukrainian people,” he said at the time. “I am an Israeli citizen and if I wanted to think about having another citizenship, I would be proud to receive a Ukrainian passport.”

Nevzlin is a former executive with the Russian oil company Yukos that was targeted by Putin in a 2005 corruption trial condemned around the world as politically motivated and procedurally flawed. Russian attempts to extradite Nevzlin were rebuffed by the Israeli government on grounds of lack of evidence.

On Friday, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that the moves to shut the Jewish Agency were triggered by anxieties over a “brain drain.”

“No, this is not related to the brain drain, it is related to compliance with Russian law,” Peskov said. The ministry of justice claims that the Jewish Agency violated Russian law by allegedly maintaining a database of Russian Jews planning to emigrate to Israel. More than 16,000 Russian Jews have departed for Israel since Moscow launched the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Peskov then told the journalist who asked him the question to direct his inquiry to the ministry of justice, “which made this decision.”

In a separate development on Monday, Russian police detained opposition politician Leonid Gozman over his alleged failure to inform the authorities swiftly enough about his Israeli citizenship. Gozman had argued publicly that Putin has inflicted more damage on Russia by invading Ukraine than any other Russian leader since Josef Stalin, and that post-Soviet Russia had essentially died with the war.