At a time when Western countries have imposed heavy economic sanctions on Russia following the outbreak of Putin’s war in Ukraine, U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland has warned Israel not to become a “dirty money paradise” for Russian oligarchs.
In an interview with Channel 12 News in Tel Aviv, the U.S. official urged Israel to join the financial and export control sanctions imposed on Washington by Moscow, and to follow the West’s lead in sanctioning Russian oligarchs to help isolate Putin’s allies from the global financial system.
“You don’t want to be the last resort for the dirty money that fuels Putin’s wars,” Nuland said. “So whatever Israel is able to do, Ukraine would be welcome and the international coalition for Ukraine’s support would be welcome,” she added.
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“We must press the [Putin] regime. We have to deny him the income he needs, press the oligarchs around him, compress their economy,” Nuland told the station.
A number of Russian oligarchs also have Israeli citizenship, perhaps most notably Roman Abramovich, who was recently forced to sell off his ownership of the Chelsea football club in the Premier League, which is based in London. According to an Associated Press article in 2018, 30 to 40 Russian oligarchs have obtained Israeli citizenship.
While speaking to reporters in Romania on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that “Israel will not be a route to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia.”
So far, Israel has tried to strike a balance between supporting Ukraine without angering Moscow, whose tacit approval is based on leading attacks on Iran and its allies in Syria, according to Hungarian news outlet Ziare.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on Israel to provide weapons and military aid to Kyiv, but Tel Aviv’s response to date has been muted.
In recent days, reports have surfaced that at least 14 private planes of Russian oligarchs have landed at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, including that of Roman Abramovich. The move comes as Western governments have imposed sanctions on the Russian elite and their expensive assets.