Amidst one of the deepest East-West crises since the Cold War over Russia and the Ukraine, the US expressed surprise that Israel did not support last month’s UN vote on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia is deeply involved in eastern Ukraine where pro-Moscow separatists have seized control of a number of government buildings.
A day earlier, in Washington, US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the US was “surprised” that Israel did not support a UN vote in March following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Psaki was responding to a question regarding a recent report in the Israeli media that the US was infuriated with Israel because of its lack of a position on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. She said this was not how the US would characterize its reaction to Israel on this issue.
“We were surprised that Israel did not join the vast majority of countries that voted to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the United Nations,” Psaki said.
Psaki said the US did not view the issue as a “major concern,” and she said that she also understood that at the time of the UN General Assembly vote, Israel’s Foreign Ministry was on strike.
Israel did not show up for the vote on March 27 in which a majority of UN member states called on all states and international organizations not to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The vote passed in the 193 member UN General Assembly with 100 in favor, 11 against, and 58 abstentions. Israel did not show up for the vote.
Ukrainian troops disembark from helicopters in Kramatorsk
Ukrainian troops disembarked from at least two helicopters at an airfield on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said.
Earlier the defense ministry was quoted as saying it had launched a "special operation" against pro-Russia separatists who seized buildings in the town on Saturday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on Tuesday that there are no Russian military forces in eastern Ukraine and that any claims of their presence there are absurd.
"This is an absurd assertion, there are no Russian troops there," the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told a conference call. He suggested that Western governments were deliberately ignoring Russian assurances on this score, saying "one can only express puzzlement that they prefer not to hear all the statements of the Russian side."
Russian Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday he hoped that the authorities in the Ukrainian capital have "enough brains" to prevent a further escalation of the conflict in the east of the country.
"Ukraine is on the brink of civil war and it is scary," he told a news conference after a meeting with his counterparts from Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Russia has deliberately pushed Ukraine "to the brink" in recent days and increased the risk of violent confrontation there, British Foreign Secretary William Hague will say on Tuesday in a speech in London.
Hague's comments, were released in advance by his office.
"In recent days Russia has deliberately pushed Ukraine to the brink, and created a still greater risk of violent confrontation," Hague will say, according to the advance extracts.