Israel will not recognize referendum on Russian-occupied Ukraine - FM

Prime Minister Yair Lapid has been critical of Russia’s war on Ukraine since the invasion in late February, calling some of Moscow’s actions war crimes.

 Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest march against the Russian invasion to the Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, on February 26, 2022.  (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest march against the Russian invasion to the Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, on February 26, 2022.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Israel will not recognize the results of a referendum in areas of Ukraine held by Russian forces or Russia-backed separatists, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

“Israel recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and will not recognizes the results of referendums in the eastern districts of Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

“Israel recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and will not recognizes the results of referendums in the eastern districts of Ukraine.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Yair Lapid has been critical of Russia’s war on Ukraine since the invasion in late February, calling some of Moscow’s actions war crimes. Israel also voted against Russia in the UN. Israel has also sent planeloads of humanitarian aid and built a field hospital in Ukraine. However, Israel has faced criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and others for not sending military aid to Kyiv.

Two Ukrainian soldiers arrived in Israel for medical treatment on Sunday, and 18 more severely injured soldiers are expected to arrive in the next two weeks, the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel stated.

The embassy thanked Israel “for organizing the process of providing free care for the Ukrainian soldiers in leading hospitals in Israel.”

The national flags of Israel and Ukraine (credit: OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE)The national flags of Israel and Ukraine (credit: OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that "Israel has great experience in rehabilitating amputees. We have excellent medical teams and hospitals that opened their doors and their hearts to the injured Ukrainian soldiers.

"Israel will continue aiding Ukraine and its citizens. I wish a speedy recovery to the wounded," Lapid stated. 

Zelensky has repeatedly warned that "pseudo-referendums" on annexation by Russia would destroy any chance of peace talks.

One of the senior figures in his administration, Mykhailo Podolyak, called on Tuesday for any referendums to be met by an increase in international economic sanctions on Russia and increased arms supplies to Ukraine, including Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, a guided missile with a range of 300 km.

The United States is prepared to impose additional economic costs on Russia in conjunction with US allies if Moscow moves forward with annexing portions of Ukrainian territory, the White House said.

After imposing severe sanctions on Russia, though, there is not a great deal of economic punishment left to inflict unless the United States could get China and India to agree to some sort of cap on the price of Russian energy.

What is Russia planning next?

Russia plans to annex around 15% of Ukraine that its forces control as well as about 3% of Ukraine that it does not control - including frontlines where Ukrainian soldiers are still fighting.

The areas include a big chunk of eastern Ukraine, known as Donbas, where high concentrations of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians live. The two parts of the Donbas now include the self-styled Donetsk (DPR) and the Luhansk People's Republics (LPR), which Putin recognized as independent states just before the Feb. 24 invasion. A frontline runs through Donetsk.

Referendums were held in 2014 in the two areas on secession from Ukraine, the Russian-controlled Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Taken together, Russia would be annexing at least 90,000 square km of Ukrainian territory. That is an area around the same size as Hungary or Portugal.

Russia, which recognized Ukraine's post-Soviet borders in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, annexed Crimea in 2014. With Crimea and the territory in the four other areas, Russia would have annexed at least one-fifth of Ukrainian territory.