Russian ambassador storms out of Knesset over Ukraine war criticism

Russian ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov left the Knesset plenum after MKs began criticizing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Voting at the emergency Knesset meeting, April 6, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Voting at the emergency Knesset meeting, April 6, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Anatoly Viktorov, Russia’s ambassador to Israel, stormed out of the Knesset plenum on Tuesday after Knesset members attacked Russia for its invasion of Ukraine during Victory Day celebrations at the Israeli parliament, Israeli media reported.

According to the report, one of the MKs who attacked Russia in the plenum was Yisrael Beytenu’s Ukrainian-born Evgeny Sova, who called Russia’s war on Ukraine a “slap in the face for our grandparents who fought the Nazis.”

The ambassador reportedly quickly left the plenum after several MKs began speaking about the ongoing war in eastern Europe and claiming Russia is committing war crimes on Ukrainian soil.

Diplomatic ties between Russia and Israel have gradually deteriorated since President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a “special military operation” on February 24.

Israel, which was pressured by the West led by the United States to join it in imposing economic sanctions and condemnations on the Kremlin, has attempted to remain neutral throughout the conflict, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett initially taking on the role of a mediator, during which he became one of a small number of world leaders to meet with Putin in Russia after the start of hostilities.

ANATOLY VIKTOROV (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)ANATOLY VIKTOROV (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Despite significant humanitarian aid given to Ukraine and condemnations of apparent war crimes such as the massacre in Bucha, Bennett refused to directly blame or condemn Russia, leaving Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to speak out against Moscow.

A crucial turning point in relations came when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov launched an antisemitic attack on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, claiming that “the fact that he is a Jew does not negate the Nazi elements in his country,” adding that he believes “Adolf Hitler also had Jewish blood.”

Lavrov’s comment drew broad condemnations from Bennett and many world leaders and was retracted by Putin who apologized to the Israeli prime minister in a phone conversation last week.

Sova, who was speaking as the ambassador left the plenum, reacted to the incident and said that Viktorov had “urgent meetings and had to leave the Knesset anyway.” This was confirmed by the Russian embassy.