Russia criticizes Israeli envoy to Ukraine for letter on renaming Kyiv streets

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday took a swipe at Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine for suggesting that some streets and public spaces in Kyiv be named after Ukrainians who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, a retired heavyweight champion boxer, announced Monday that he will rename streets and sites linked to Russia and Belarus. Citizens can submit suggestions through the end of the month.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Brodsky penned Klitschko a letter in which he floated the idea of ​​renaming some streets and places for Ukrainians recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

The envoy, who is stationed in Poland along with the rest of the embassy staff due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sent the letter on the eve of Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Responding to the letter, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry railed at Kyiv’s “de-Russification” campaign and criticized Brodsky for not noting in his letter that there were Ukrainians who took part in Nazi massacres of Jews.

“As a result of the Israeli diplomat’s flirting with the current kyiv regime, the proposed new names of city public spaces dedicated to the people who in fact selflessly saved Jews may appear next to the names of those pseudo-heroes who were directly responsible for the deaths of civilians during World War II, including thousands of Jews,” Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

The letter comes a week after Moscow criticized Jerusalem’s decision to supply Kyiv with defensive gear, with the Russian ambassador to Israel issuing a vague warning, saying that Russia would “respond accordingly.”

The move marked a policy shift for Israel, which first weighed Ukrainian requests for some defensive equipment in March. More recently, devastating images coming out of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha galvanized many countries against the Russian effort and led to a change of tone from Israeli politicians.

Israel has avoided aligning too closely with either side since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. It is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and Russia.

However, the rhetoric coming from Jerusalem shifted in the wake of the reports of widespread civilian killings by the Russians. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid even explicitly accused Russia of war crimes earlier this month, in the strongest comments yet by a top Israeli official against Moscow.

While Jerusalem might have somewhat shifted its tone to align more with Western powers, it has so far steadfastly declined to contribute to the Ukrainian military effort. Instead, Israel has sent a 100-ton humanitarian aid package to Ukraine and built to field hospital in the west of the country, which was shuttered this week after six weeks.

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