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‘Ukraine and Israel have the same enemy: Russia and Iran’

An interview with Ukraine's ambassador to Israel Korniychuk Yevgen.

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, speaks during a conference in Jaffa, June 7, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, speaks during a conference in Jaffa, June 7, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Korniychuk Yevgen has been Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel since 2020. Since before Russia’s invasion of his country in February 2022, he has argued that Israel is not doing enough when it comes to assisting Ukraine.

Since the invasion, his efforts to increase Israeli assistance to Ukraine have only increased.

Q: Thank you, ambassador, for the interview. What is the situation in Ukraine two years after the Russian invasion?

A: I should remind you that not many intelligence communities in the world…believed that we would last more than two to three weeks as an independent nation, but after two years of war, we control the majority of our territory, which by itself, I believe, means victory.

We are stronger than we were two years ago. The majority of the population believe we can win, meaning that we could liberate all of our independent territories that belonged to Ukraine before 2013. Our army is definitely, in technical and human terms, one of the strongest among the world, and within the last month we were able to sign security cooperation agreements with various states, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Denmark and some other nations.

Q: Let me ask about the situation on ground—we saw several reports about the Russians claiming to conquer a few areas?

A: I’m not sure that taking a small town, which had a population of about 25,000 before the invasion, is a great victory. Our aim is to save human lives, the lives of our soldiers, and if based on practical considerations we decided to withhold our troops and move them to other territories, that doesn’t mean a great victory for Russians. Again, they were supposed to control the whole country within a month of the beginning of the war, and now after two years, they are claiming victory if they capture a small town in the Donbass area. I don’t think it’s a victory at all.

Q: It seems that since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has started to be a major drone producer?

A: Not just drones—we’re producing a lot of different types of ammunition and military equipment. Some of them we’ve been making as a joint venture with the Western countries. … We realized that the war is unfortunately a marathon, this is why we had to invest in our own production. And that’s what we’ve been doing, successfully.

Q: What changes do you see, if at all, since Oct. 7 regarding global attention on the war in Ukraine?

A: We have the same enemy, which is Russia and Iran. And most of the Israeli people will agree with me. The political leadership will most likely not. But if now the same Iranian drones that are being used against Ukraine are also being used by Yemen, you will agree with me that we are fighting the same enemy. Of course, Iran is not going to be at the forefront of the war, but it will supply, it will support pro-Iranian proxies all over Israel. And that’s the same as the Russians have been doing, meeting with Hamas and Hezbollah leadership in Moscow, and with the Iranians.

In terms of the media, it was for us more difficult because a lot of the attention was drawn to the war in Israel after Oct. 7, but we are working hard to keep it [in the headlines of the] major international media outlets around the world.

Q: What would you like to see more of from the Israeli side?

A: I wish we could do more together with the Israeli government, but again, this is not a one-man show—the Israeli government has to agree to do more. So, for example, I should remind you that we have the bill now in Congress pushing financial aid mostly to Ukraine and Israel. And I should say that we should do more in order to push to have the vote in Congress as quickly as possible for this important act that will provide financial aid for Ukraine and Israel.

Q: But how much disappointment is there that we know exactly what the Russian stance is on the war in Gaza, yet still, Israel is not changing its position regarding the Ukrainian war?

A: Listen, I am not an adviser to the Israeli government. And you know that I have heavily criticized them for not having a more proactive position towards Russia and Ukraine. But this is not up to me. I’m a foreign diplomat. You know, I think this is more for the Israeli people, who should call on their government to change its position and do more.

You don’t need any proof of who the enemy is, and yet you will probably not find one sentence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu criticizing the Russian leadership. Your ambassador to Moscow has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, and since the beginning of war I have been summoned to the Foreign Ministry five times.

Which is the problem…I am trying to explain that we have the same enemy and that they have to be more proactive and work closer together against that enemy.

Q: Is Ukraine getting the same assistance as they got before the war here in Israel?

A: We have a problem because of the U.S. election at the end of the year. And now Trump’s influence on Congress is pretty high. This is why this isn’t related to the war in Israel, but rather to the Democrats versus Republicans in Congress. And you know that Republicans are at the majority in Congress, that’s why we have a problem. It’s not related to Israel, but again, you have your own lobbying abilities in Congress, and we do as well. So we think, I think we have to work together, because the aid to Israel and aid to Ukraine is the same deal.

Q: How do you think the war will end?

A: Like I said, this is a marathon. This is not a sprint. We all understand that. And no matter how tired the public in Ukraine is, more than 80% wants to liberate all of our territories and push forward. So this is the key message. So I’m sure you have seen, we have had a big gathering in Habima Square, together with the mayor of Tel Aviv. The same gathering is what’s going on in all major cities of Israel in support of Ukraine. We have to stay united. And this is what most of the people in Ukraine and people in Israel understand. And we need to stay strong and defeat our enemy and achieve full victory. And that’s what we’re focused on.

Amichai Stein is the diplomatic correspondent for Kan 11, IPBC.

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