Israel sent its first defensive military equipment to Ukraine on Wednesday to be given to rescue groups and civilian organizations helping the war-torn nation.
The 2,000 helmets and 500 flak jackets mark a new moment in the tense relationships between Israel, Ukraine and Russia as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues its invasion of Ukraine.
Previously, Israel has sent 100 tons of humanitarian aid, as well as constructing a hospital in Ukraine. However, the latest shipment is the first military equipment sent in response to Ukraine’s requests for help.
Despite past positive relations between Israel and Russia, recent weeks have been tense. In addition to claims by Russia to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, which is led by a Ukrainian president, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told an Italian reporter that Adolf Hitler had a Jewish heritage, sparking claims of antisemitism worldwide.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office later reported that Putin called and apologized for the remark.
So far, Israel has continued to refrain from sending offensive military weapons. The strategic move is also important as Russia largely controls Syrian airspace, an area where Israel sometimes needs to operate to defend against Iranian proxies operating in the neighboring nation.
Escalating tensions with Russia is also something Israel seeks to avoid due to many Jews living in Russia. Israel’s leaders continue to operate in ways that it hopes will avoid harsh treatment of Jews living under Putin’s leadership, allowing Jews who wish to leave for Israel the opportunity to do so.
Despite Israel’s stance to hold back from sending offensive military weapons to Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has continued to call for assistance, noting his desire for a missile defense system similar to Israel’s Iron Dome.