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Israel torn over ties with Russian oligarchs

Formulating its policy on the Ukraine crisis, Israel must take into account its coordination with Russia in Syria, its special relations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, its super important alliance with the United States and its large Russian-Ukraine-born population.
Chelsea owner Russian-born Jewish oligarch Roman Abramovich looks on from the stands during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, London, England, April 16, 2016.
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At a Feb. 27 meeting of Israel’s foreign affairs and security Cabinet, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid turned to his colleagues with a strange request-cum-warning, asking them not to provide assistance to Jewish-Russian billionaires/oligarchs who have been hit by international sanctions. “You have to be very careful because those guys have connections and they can call you on the phone and ask you for things. Don’t commit to anything because it could cause diplomatic damage. Say you can’t help them and give them the number of the Foreign Ministry,” said Lapid.

Such appeals have apparently already begun. The oligarchs are the latest twist in the dilemmas with which the Russian invasion of Ukraine are confronting Israel as it seeks to balance a host of competing interests. Quite a number of them are Jewish and hold Israeli citizenship. Quite a few are connected in one way or another to senior Israeli civil society and political echelons. A few live in Israel at least part time and invest their money here. Israel may have to impose sanctions on them.

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