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Iranian aid to Russia altered Kyiv-Jerusalem relationship, Ukrainian ambassador says

Oksana Markarova hailed U.S. Jewish support before the start of a celebratory seder for diplomats, during which she noted Chassidic leader Reb Nachman of Breslov.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova was recognized at a diplomatic seder held by the American Jewish Committee in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2022. Photo by Dmitry Shapiro.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova was recognized at a diplomatic seder held by the American Jewish Committee in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2022. Photo by Dmitry Shapiro.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States told a gathering of Jewish media this week that Iran’s partnership with Russia has forced her country and the world to “rethink” how they deal with Iran.

Oksana Markarova addressed reporters on March 29 prior to the American Jewish Committee’s annual Diplomats Seder. The symbolic seder was held at Washington’s Adas Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue that often hosts U.S. presidents and other political leaders.

Markarova largely deferred comment on Israel-specific topics to her colleague in Tel Aviv, Yevgen Korniychuk, but said that American Jews have been “such incredible friends and allies.”

“The Jewish community here in the United States has been with us before this full-fledged war and definitely every day since February 24,” she said. Russia invaded Ukraine on that day in 2022.

Some have criticized Kyiv’s persistent calls for Israel to arm Ukraine, which has often veered into public criticism of Israel. Ukraine had not been known for supporting Israel when the Jewish state has repeatedly come under attack at the United Nations and other international forums.

In response to a question from JNS, Markarova said Tehran’s choice to provide Moscow with deadly attack drones has changed the dynamic of the relationship between Kyiv and Jerusalem.

“Especially after Iran joined this autocratic club and started giving Russia their weapons, which destroy our schools and our residential buildings, I think it’s even more evident that together with Israel, we have not only common culture, not only common history, not only future innovations, but this (conflict) is something that we have to also fight together,” she Markarova.

She added that she welcomed all countries to join Ukraine more closely, whether through “public or non-public” enhanced relations.

Markarova did not elaborate directly on whether Ukraine supports Washington’s position of remaining open to rejoining Iran in the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“This war has changed so much and essentially shattered so many things that were discussed, and that we had opinions or didn’t have opinions on,” she said.

She described the current situation as “very black and white,” calling any country aiding Russia in its invasion “an accomplice, at least, or a war criminal.”

Jewish men in the street near the tomb of Reb Nachman of Breslov in Uman on eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, Sept. 25, 2022. Photo by Flash90.

‘The message of Passover remains powerful’

Markarova welcomed Iran sanctions put in place by the United States, as well as those imposed by others and the European Union. The latter “have had to rethink a lot of interactions that had been possible before, which you have to look at with a new pair of eyes now,” she said.

Later in the evening, Markarova addressed 300 attendees at the 31st annual seder, including 90 representatives from more than 60 countries, including those from Egypt, Turkey and China. The informal celebration of the upcoming Passover holiday featured a traditional meal.

Markarova noted the Jewish pilgrimage site of Uman, Ukraine, where Nachman of Breslov (“Reb Nachman”), founder of the Breslov Chassidic movement, is buried. Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews traditionally visit the grave around Rosh Hashanah.

“He said that the exodus from Egypt—the exodus from slavery—occurs in every human being, in every era and in every day. This is what we are going through now on a daily basis in Ukraine,” said Markarova.

“We get out from slavery and fight for our freedom,” she added. “The message of Passover remains as powerful as ever today when Ukrainians fight for our freedom.”

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