Ukrainian defense official: We appreciate Bennett’s mediation

Lubkivskyi was positive about Jerusalem and showed understanding of its delicate situation with Moscow, which is the dominant force over Israel’s northern border with Syria.

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

Israel can play an important role in mediation between Ukraine and Russia, Advisor to Ukraine’s defense minister Markiyan Lubkivskyi said on Friday.

“Thank you so much Israel for your support,” Lubkivskyi said. “I think that your country can play a crucial role in this story. And I think that you can be a mediator to stop Putin. This is a message [Kyiv] wants to send to you.”

Soon after Lubkivskyi spoke to The Jerusalem Post, Walla News reported that Bennett is pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands to end the war and that Kyiv is upset with Israel’s stance.

However, Lubkivskyi was more positive about Jerusalem and showed understanding of its delicate situation with Moscow, which is the dominant force over Israel’s northern border with Syria.

“We appreciate the dialogue we have with Israel, and we appreciate the dialogue between your leader and President Zelensky,” Lubkivskyi said. “I think that we also understand that…you are in a very sensitive position, I have to say, because you have a lot of people who are who came from the former Soviet Union, and they are Russians, they are Ukrainians.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meeting Ukrainian Jewish refugees arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, March 6, 2022.  (credit: HADAS PARUSH)Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meeting Ukrainian Jewish refugees arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, March 6, 2022. (credit: HADAS PARUSH)

When it comes to the specifics of Putin’s demands on Ukraine, which are reported to include giving up on the Donbas, neutrality between Russia and the West, and semi-demilitarization, Lubkivskyi said he thinks that it is “too early to discuss.”

“We need to be patient,” he stated. “We need to protect people at this stage. Sanctions are doing their job. Every day Russia is becoming weaker and weaker…We need to see how sanctions are progressing, and we need to decide everything based on the realistic picture.

“Yes, it's enormously hard for us to protect our country. Yes, we are losing our civilians, our soldiers, we need to protect our people. But the price of our independence can be and should be discussed,” he said.

The negotiations at this point between Russia and Ukraine, from the latter’s perspective, are for a ceasefire and humanitarian corridors, the Ukrainian defense ministry official explained.

“This is the crucial thing for us, to protect Ukrainians, to provide them with the corridors so that they can leave the areas of fire and to be safe,” he explained. “This is the main thing we tried to negotiate [on Thursday] with the Russians.”

Russia, however, does not understand that about Ukraine, Lubkivskyi said.

“They think we are fascists, Nazi people, including Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, everybody, so this is this is terrible,” he said. “And I spoke to a lot of people from Kharkiv, from Mariupol, from Chernihiv, from Kherson, and there are a lot of people from other [not-Ukrainian] nationalities, and they asked me, what is the reason why [Russia] is attacking Ukrainians? We are not fascists – he’s a fascist.”

“Now it's absolutely clear that the future of Ukraine is apart from Russia,” he added.

Lubkivskyi said Russia underestimated the level of resistance they would face in Ukraine, but even he was surprised.

“I think that our army is one of the best in the world. Maybe after the Israeli army,” he said. “The army is very strong, because of experience and morale is very high, motivation is very high. We are like you.”

Lubkivskyi continued to compare Ukraine’s military to the IDF: “We are not attacking anybody; we are protecting our land…We are on our own land…So that's why I'm absolutely confident that we will win in that war.”

When it comes to Israel, Lubkivskyi said Ukraine is counting on “very practical things to be done to support Ukrainians in very concrete ways. I think that this dialogue is ongoing. I cannot say more because…I believe these are in dialogue, so we really to support [for] Ukraine.”

As for what kind of concrete forms of support Kyiv hopes to get from Jerusalem, and if that includes missile defense systems, Lubkivskyi said his country is “looking forward to getting efficient means of protection.”

“For us the main problem now is that we are not protected,” he said. “So that's why it's good to have such kind of dialogue…to get maybe some technologies, maybe some weapons, maybe parts of for that technology.”

Lubkivskyi emphasized that Ukraine and Israel “are partners, and we are not making pressure on anybody.”

At the same time, Kyiv’s message to the world is “Putin will never stop…So by protecting us, you’re protecting yourselves.

Zelensky has made reference to the fact that he is Jewish in appeals to Jews of the world and Israel during the war. Lubkivskyi’s boss, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, is Jewish, as well.

Asked how that has gone over in Ukraine, Lubkivskyi said: “I respect that there is a Jew as the leader of my country.”

“He’s protecting Ukraine, as a Ukrainian,” Lubkivskyi stated. “I really appreciate that. I like that. He is a patriot of our country. This is amazing, how people can be united, be together.”

Lubkivskyi spoke of how the war has united Ukrainians.

“Everybody in Ukraine feels [like a] victim of invasion,” he said. “Now we are united, and this is for us a crucial moment of our independence. We need to win, we need to survive, and to become better. And to become different. We need to change rules in another community. We need to fight corruption. We need to fight. We need to understand each other. We need to love each other. We need to work, to live like one community. And this is very important for us. I think this is the lesson we should we should really learn.”

Lubkivskyi admitted that “the situation on the ground is terrible…There is a terrible loss of innocent people, you know, [Russia is] shooting, they're killing us every day.”

Asked what protections Ukraine has for civilians, like bomb shelters, Lubkivskyi said people in cities are mostly going into their buildings’ basements.

“We were not prepared for the war, as a normal country,” he explained. “Now we understand that we should be prepared…but half a year ago, one year ago nobody thought that we will need to hide our people and they will have to stay there for two or three days without water, without food. This is really terrible.”

Quoting Winston Churchill’s appeal to the US before it entered World War II, Lubkivskyi said: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

Ukraine is hoping for warplanes from Poland and other ways to protect the country from missiles.

“I will mention just the words of [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov,” Lubkivskyi said. “He said [on Thursday] we will never attack other European countries. And after that, he said, we never attacked Ukraine…This is a lie. And who can believe this guy saying that? So that's why nobody is safe now. Neither Poland, neither Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia. All of these countries are in danger because of Russia.”