Russia’s stance on the Israeli-Hamas conflict is complicated, analysts say — Moscow has traditionally good relations with Israel and increasingly close ties to Iran, which provides the Hamas militant group with financial and material support.
“Russia’s stance on the conflict is complex,” Tatiana Stanovaya, senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center and the founder of analysis firm R.Politik, said in analysis Monday.
“On the one hand, Moscow might draw on its history of intra-Palestinian mediation and its ties with Hamas to gain a foothold in any peace process. It also sees the importance of its growing relationships with Iran and Arab states,” she noted.
Iran congratulated Hamas on its surprise Saturday offensive against Israel but denied any involvement in the initiative, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “we have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack, but there is certainly a long relationship.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin on April 21, 2016.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images
“On the other hand, despite recent tensions, Russia’s relationship with Israel remains strong and pragmatic, hallmarked by open lines of communication, a degree of practical coordination in Syria and shared views on the historical significance of the Second World War. The fact that Israel has not imposed Western anti-Russian sanctions is also notable.”
In light of that, Moscow is likely to stay neutral, she said.
“A severe escalation, potentially even leading to open conflict between Iran and Israel, could jeopardise Russia’s established presence in the Middle East and its long, ongoing campaign in Syria,” she noted.
Russia’s military bases in Syria are an important hub, Stanovaya added, projecting Moscow’s influence in Africa as well as the Middle East.
“While some believe this war might push Russia closer to Iran, Moscow is more likely to keep its position as a mediator, aiming to counter Western influence and interact as a constructive peace broker,” she said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Rescuers clear debris at a destroyed residential building after a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv on Oct. 6, 2023.
Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images
Ukraine’s deputy central bank governor said the West needs to remain united when it comes to aid for Ukraine as war fatigue and public and political discontent with continued financial assistance appear to be increasing.
Deputy Governor Sergiy Nikolaychuk told CNBC that international aid is a very important factor in Ukraine’s economic resistance as the war continues and that Kyiv was concerned about future aid.
“We have a lot of concerns regarding the future outlook, the future international national support,” he told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche at International Monetary Fund meetings in Morocco.
“We think that for the Western world, and for Ukraine … should be the joint goal [of] the victory of Ukraine in this war, making Ukrainian economy resistant to future shocks.”
“That is important, both in order to maintain the global geopolitical order and also global security order. And of course, in order to avoid any potential threats for the Europe, especially for the Eastern Europe countries,” he added.
When asked to comment on the U.S.’ pause on additional funding for Ukraine, a condition in a stopgap deal approved by Congress last month to maintain government funding for 45 days, Nikolaychuk said “we still suppose that is a short term delay in the financing for Ukraine, we still rely on the support of the American state.
“So we are very glad to hear this assurances that the U.S. is ready to support Ukraine as long as as needed. And definitely that is an important an important factor for both for financial stability in Ukraine, and also the its resilience. Its ability to withstand the challenges caused by the war,” he noted.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov attends the Eurasian Economic Summit on November 9, 2022 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Leaders of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia gathered in Kyrgyz capital, hosting the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Summit.
Contributor | Getty Images
Western taxpayers are starting to ask questions about how their money is being spent in helping Ukraine’s armed forces, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
Asked at a regular news briefing about Western fatigue over the Ukraine conflict, Peskov said that sooner or later Western support for Kyiv would start to decline.
Kyiv said Russia is planning to launch a disinformation campaign to discredit Ukraine in the Middle East, claiming Moscow was planning to allege that Ukraine had supplied Western-supplied weapons to Hamas militants.
“The special operations units of Russia are conducting a campaign to discredit Ukraine in the Middle East,” Ukraine’s main intelligence department said on Telegram Monday. It said Russia was looking to exploit the Palestinian militant group Hamas’ attack against Israel in order to undermine Ukraine.
The intelligence department claimed that the Russian army had given Hamas “trophy weapons manufactured in the USA and EU states, that were captured during the hostilities in Ukraine.”
“The next step, according to the plan of the Russians, should be fake accusations [involving] the Ukrainian military in the alleged sale of Western weapons to terrorists on a regular basis.”
“As part of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign, these fakes should form the basis of a number of ‘revealing publications’ and ‘investigations’ in the Western media,” the intelligence department added.
It did not provide evidence for its claims and CNBC was unable to verify the information.
Ukraine said Russia “aimed at discrediting the Armed Forces of Ukraine and [encouraging] the complete cessation of military aid to our country from Western partners.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, having offered his support and condolences for those killed in deadly attacks that erupted in the country after Hamas launched an audacious and large-scale attack on Saturday.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday linked the assault by Hamas on Israel with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and criticized Iran over both conflicts.
Israel was caught off guard on Saturday when the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas launched a devastating attack.
“The only difference is that there is a terrorist organization that attacked Israel and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine. The intentions declared are different, but the essence is the same,” Zelenskyy told NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Copenhagen via video link.
Iran has denied it has supplied Russia with Shahed kamikaze drones for use in Ukraine and has said it is not involved in the weekend’s attacks on Israel. Ukraine said about 1,000 Iranian-designed Shahed drones were used by Russia over the past six months.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi greets Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 19, 2022. Putin likely wanted to show that Moscow is still important in the Middle East by visiting Iran, said John Drennan of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Sergei Savostyanov | AFP | Getty Images
“Iran can’t say it has nothing to do with what is going on in Ukraine if it sells Shaheds (drones) to Russia. Iran can’t say it has nothing to do with what is going on in Israel, if its officials claim the support of what is going on in Israel,” Zelenskyy said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was no evidence Iran was behind the latest attacks on Israel but he said there are long standing ties between Tehran and Hamas.
Zelenskyy urged Western unity in the face of global events. “This is not the time to withdraw from the international arena into internal disputes. This is not the time to isolate ourselves. This is not the time to remain silent or pretend that the terror on one continent does not affect global affairs,” Zelenskyy said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Via Reuters
The Kremlin said Monday that the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas posed “a very great danger for the region,” but said Russian President Vladimir Putin has no calls scheduled with Middle Eastern leadership.
Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov commented Monday that the Kremlin had little to add to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement made on Saturday, in which Russia called for a cease-fire and blamed the West for failing to tackle long-term tensions between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
Nonetheless, Peskov said the Kremlin was “extremely concerned” by the violence.
“We believe that it is necessary to bring this situation into a peaceful direction as soon as possible, because the continuation of such a round of violence, of course, is fraught with further escalation and growth of this conflict. This is a great danger for the region, so we are extremely concerned,” Peskov said, according to comments published by Tass news agency.
Peskov said Putin does not yet plan to contact Israeli or Palestinian officials.
— Holly Ellyatt
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
An aerial picture was taken of gravediggers creating new graves for victims of a Russian missile strike in the village of Hroza.
In an aerial view, gravediggers make new graves for the victims of a recent Russian missile strike at Hroza cemetery on October 09, 2023 in Hroza, Ukraine.
Diego Fedele | Getty Images
In the attack on Thursday, a missile crashed into a cafe in Hroza as people had gathered to mourn a fallen Ukrainian soldier, Reuters reported at the time. Hroza was captured by Moscow shortly after the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year. Ukrainian forces recaptured it in Sept., 2022.
— Hannah Ward-Glenton