JERUSALEM – Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned on Tuesday Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine, intensifying Israel’s criticism of Russia since the fighting in Ukraine started.
“The images and testimony from Ukraine are horrific. Russian forces committed war crimes against a defenseless civilian population. I strongly condemn these war crimes,” he said in a statement.
Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned the killing of civilians documented in the Ukrainian town of Bucha but stopped short of accusing Russian forces of responsibility.
Israel has been restrained in its criticism of Russia, citing Bennett’s efforts to broker peace. Israel also wants to keep channels open to the Russian military in Syria, where Israel often mounts air strikes on Iranian assets.
“We’re shocked by the terrible sights in Bucha – awful scenes – and we condemn them. The suffering of Ukrainian citizens is immense, and we’re doing everything we can to assist,” Bennett said during a televised news conference.
The discovery of the slain civilians, some of them bound, after the withdrawal of Russian forces from the town has stirred a global outcry. Kyiv deemed them evidence of genocide. Moscow has denied responsibility and accused Ukraine of trying to smear it.
Bucha has opened up rifts within Bennett’s cross-partisan coalition. One liberal cabinet minister described the killings as a Russian war crime, while another, rightist partner suggested that Russia’s counter-accusations should be heeded.