Ukrainian president, under threat from Russia, compares Israel to Ukraine

“Israel is often an example for Ukraine.”

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Against a backdrop of Russian pressure, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky paralleled his country’s situation to Israel on Wednesday. Zelensky was addressing the annual Kyiv Jewish Forum.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Zelensky did not refer to Russia by name, though his intent was clear.

“We know what it’s like not to have an own state. We know what it means to defend one’s own state and land with weapons in hand, at the cost of our own lives,” said Zelensky, who is Jewish.

“Both Ukrainians and Jews value freedom, and they work equally for the future of our states to become to our liking, and not the future which others want for us. Israel is often an example for Ukraine,” he added.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and shortly after cast its support behind a separatist rebellion in the country’s east. More than seven years of fighting has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.

In an escalation, Russia recently deployed 100,000 troops to its border with Ukraine.

Moscow published on Friday draft security demands that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe — ultimatums almost certain to be rejected by the U.S. and its allies.

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Intelligence officials also have seen an uptick in Russian propaganda efforts through the use of proxies and media outlets to denigrate Ukraine and NATO ahead of a potential invasion.

Ukraine first applied for NATO membership in 2008.

Israeli-Ukrainian relations are complicated by Jerusalem’s navigating of ties with Russia. President Vladimir Putin currently turns a blind eye to Israeli air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria. Israeli officials are wary of jeopardizing the Air Force’s freedom of movement.

The annual forum, organized by Kyiv’s Jewish community, brings together Ukrainian, Israeli and top Jewish leaders to discuss issues of concern to Jewish communities worldwide. This year’s forum saw some 31 speakers, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

During the conference, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel, Yehven Korniychuk, said Ukraine will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol and move its embassy there.

Associated Press contributed to this report.