Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo credit: SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu on assuming office as Israel’s prime minister and called for the “strengthening of Russian-Israeli cooperation in all areas” to normalize diplomatic ties between both countries.
“I hope that the new government under your leadership will continue the line of strengthening Russian-Israeli cooperation in all areas for the benefit of our peoples, in the interest of ensuring peace and security in the Middle East,” he said in a statement on 29 December.
“In Russia, we greatly appreciate your personal and longstanding contribution to strengthening friendly relations between our countries,” Putin added.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the relationship with its former ally Israel continued to decline over the past year.
Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev warned Israel on 17 October of the repercussions of supplying Ukraine with weapons, saying that any step in support of Ukrainian forces would seriously harm bilateral relations.
Since the start of the war, Israel has supplied Ukraine with non-lethal aid, including military equipment and, allegedly, missile defense systems provided via a Polish intermediary.
According to The Jerusalem Post, an Israeli official revealed to the New York Times that Israel provided security and intelligence information to Ukraine about Iranian drones used by Russia in its military operation.
Earlier this year, Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, claimed that Israeli mercenaries have been fighting side by side with Ukrainian ultra-nationalists from the Azov Battalion.
“There are mercenaries from Israel fighting alongside the extremist Azov Brigade … Israel will not be able to ignore this, especially with the presence of videos and materials documenting this,” Zakharova told Sputnik.
On 3 May, the Russian foreign ministry criticized Israel for supporting the “neo-Nazi regime” in Ukraine, further escalating tensions.
“Ukraine has become the leader among the countries of the former USSR in terms of the number of anti-Semitic incidents, and some publications indicate that Ukraine generally surpasses all the countries of the former USSR combined in their number,” a Russian foreign ministry statement reads.