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Jerusalem (AFP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has emphasized his Judaism as he seeks to rally Jewish and Israeli support for his country during the Russian invasion, was due to address the Israeli parliament on Sunday.
While touring internationally via video conference, Zelensky has addressed several foreign legislatures since the invasion launched on Feb. 24, including the United States Congress, the British House of Commons and the German Bundestag.
A spokesperson for the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, told AFP that Zelensky’s speech was scheduled for 6:00 p.m. (1600 GMT), as the humanitarian situation deteriorates in Ukrainian cities besieged by Russian bombardment. incessant.
Zelensky will address lawmakers in a country where more than one million of its 9.4 million people have roots in the former Soviet Union.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government has tried to maintain neutrality on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, citing Israel’s warm ties to both countries and the need to preserve security coordination with Russian troops operating in Syria.
But several protests were held in Israel condemning the invasion, and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai announced that the municipality would screen Zelensky’s speech live in the heart of the city.
While toeing a cautious diplomatic line, Bennett sought to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, holding regular phone calls with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, including a three-hour meeting with Putin at the Kremlin on 5 March.
Some Ukrainian officials criticized Israel’s efforts at neutrality, while thanking Bennett for his mediation efforts.
Israel has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but has so far ruled out sending military equipment to the beleaguered country.
The Jewish state has also not joined Western sanctions against Russia.
Roman Abramovich, a prominent oligarch allegedly close to Putin, owner of Chelsea football club and hit with sanctions, holds Israeli citizenship and reportedly visited the country last week.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who, unlike Bennett, explicitly condemned the invasion, promised that Israel “will not be a way to circumvent the sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and to other Western countries”.
Nearly 14,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Israel since the start of the war.
Authorities have previously estimated that 100,000 people from Ukraine and Russia of Jewish descent who qualify for Israeli citizenship under the so-called “Law of Return” may seek to resettle in Israel as a result of the conflict.
© 2022 AFP