Ukraine war live updates: Ukraine pledges to support Israel as violence erupts, but Russia could see the conflict as an opportunity

Russia is likely to try to use the eruption of violence in Israel to distract from its operations in Ukraine, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War noted in analysis on Saturday.

“The Kremlin is already and will likely continue to exploit the Hamas attacks in Israel to advance several information operations intended to reduce U.S. and Western support and attention to Ukraine,” the ISW said.

A New Year decoration stylized as the “Kremlin Star,” a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, in Moscow, on Jan. 2, 2023.

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Noting that the Kremlin had already amplified several information operations after Hamas’ attacks in Israel on Saturday — primarily blaming the West for neglecting conflicts in the Middle East in favor of supporting Ukraine — the ISW said Russia was claiming the international community will cease to pay attention to Ukraine.

Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev claimed on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the U.S. and its allies should have been “busy with” working on “Palestinian-Israeli settlement” rather than “interfering” with Russia and providing Ukraine with military aid.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the West of creating the basis for the current violence, saying it was a “direct consequence of the chronic failure to comply with the relevant resolutions of the UN and its Security Council and the actual blocking by the West of the work of the Middle East “quartet” of international mediators consisting of Russia, the USA, the EU and the UN.”

The ISW also noted that a prominent Russian propagandist Sergei Mardan stated on Telegram that Russia will benefit from the escalation as the world “will take its mind off Ukraine for a while and get busy once again putting out the eternal fire in the Middle East.”

Commenting on the emergence of such narratives, the ISW said “these Kremlin narratives target Western audiences to drive a wedge in military support for Ukraine, seek to demoralize Ukrainian society by claiming Ukraine will lose international support, and intend to reassure Russian domestic audiences that the international society will ignore Ukraine’s war effort.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia called on Israel and Palestinian forces to reach an “immediate ceasefire” after violence flared on Saturday.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow “is gravely concerned over a sharp escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

“We call on the Palestinian and Israeli sides to implement an immediate ceasefire, renounce violence, exercise the necessary restraint and establish, with the assistance of the international community, a negotiation process aimed at establishing a comprehensive, lasting and long-awaited peace in the Middle East,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin on April 21, 2016.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

Moscow has traditionally trodden a fine diplomatic line between its oil-producing Arab allies and Israel.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to hold talks in Moscow with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the League of Arab States. 

“Russia and the Arab League have a busy agenda, but given the dramatic escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this topic will be given priority attention,” Zakharova said on Telegram Monday.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv would support Israel as it fought an unprecedented incursion by the Hamas militant group.

“It is very important that the whole world – the whole of it – does not stand aside from what has happened now and responds in the most principled way possible,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday.

Zelenskyy said he spoke to his Israeli counterpart Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and extended his condolences over hundreds of casualties so far in the bloody conflict that erupted over the weekend. Two Ukrainians are known to have died in the fighting.

A missile explodes in Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on Oct. 8, 2023.

Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images

“There is all the necessary cooperation between the Ukrainian Embassy and the Israeli police to find out the details about Ukrainians who found themselves in the areas of hostilities and shelling. Unfortunately, the deaths of two Ukrainian citizens have been confirmed,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy said the audacity of the attack had been shocking and said that “if terrorists can afford it, it means they are a threat not just to one country.”

He said Ukraine “will work together with our partners to ensure the unity of the world in the fight against terror. Various international events have already been planned. As always, the Ukrainian position will be in favor of unity and joint action.”

— Holly Ellyatt

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