MESOP MIDEAST WATCH:Russia wants Cold War-era ‘peace,’ warns West retaliatory sanctions will ‘hurt’

By  Yori Yalon ISRAEL HAYOM  9.3.2022 –

Russia has warned the West that it is working on a broad response to sanctions that would be swift and felt in the West’s most sensitive areas.

Russia’s economy is facing the gravest crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union after the West imposed crippling sanctions on almost entire Russian financial and corporate system following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia’s reaction will be swift, thoughtful and sensitive for those it addresses,” Dmitry Birichevsky, the director of the foreign ministry’s department for economic cooperation, was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday imposed an immediate ban on Russian oil and other energy imports in retaliation for the invasion.

Russia warned earlier this week that oil prices could shoot up to over $300 per barrel if the United States and European Union banned imports of crude from Russia.

Russia says Europe consumes about 500 million tons of oil a year. Russia supplies around 30% of that, or 150 million tons, as well as 80 million tons of petrochemicals.

The warning came a day after Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Russia and the United States should return to the principle of “peaceful co-existence” like during the Cold War, according to a report by the Russian Interfax news agency.

The foreign ministry added that it was open to honest and mutually respectful dialogue with the United States and that hope remained that normalcy in relations between the two countries could be restored, Interfax reported.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said moves by US-led NATO have pushed tension between Russia and Ukraine to a “breaking point.”

At a daily news briefing, he urged the United States to take China’s concerns seriously and avoid undermining its rights or interests in handling the Ukraine issue and ties with Russia.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on Tuesday a new “responsible” policy on Ukrainian refugees that would see Israel offer temporary haven to 25,000 Ukrainians until the hostilities died down.

Shaked said Israel would “host” the some 20,000 Ukrainian citizens already living in Israel prior to the outbreak of the Ukraine war – most of whom were in the country illegally, she noted. Should the war continue, Israel will allow them to work legally, she said.

In addition, the government has also set a quota to allow 5,000 Ukrainian citizens into Israel for three months, and if the situation in Ukraine does not improve by the end of that period, they will also be allowed to work in Israel. Israelis who take in Ukrainian refugees will not be required to pay a guarantor fee at the airport, but will need to agree in writing that the refugees they host will leave Israel when the emergency in their home country is over.

“In total, Israel will host some 25,000 Ukrainian citizens until the crisis is over. This is a significant number by any criteria. When we add the aliyah to be absorbed under the Law of Return, the scope of the challenge becomes clearer. I have no doubt we will succeed,” Shaked said.

Ukrainians seeking haven in Israel can apply online via the Foreign Ministry website. Israeli citizens can also apply to invite Ukrainian citizens to stay with them. Each application will be valid for one nuclear family, and families will receive priority status. Ukrainians coming to Israel will need to show entry permits issued by the Foreign Ministry.

Shaked said the government hoped to process applications within a 24-hour period.

“The sights form the war in Ukraine and the suffering of its citizens are horrifying, and cannot allow us to remain apathetic,” she said.

In another humanitarian action, Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer is building the first Israeli field hospital for civilians in Ukraine, the medical center announced Tuesday.

Early next week, a Sheba Medical Center delegation comprising dozens of volunteers will depart for Ukraine to provide a variety of treatments. An advance logistics team is already on the ground in Ukraine. The field hospital will be managed by Yoel Har-Even, with Professor Elhanan Bar-On managing medical operations.

The field hospital will feature units for children, adults, pregnant women, as well as an emergency room, triage, and pharmacy.

Director General of Sheba Medical Center, Professor Yitshak Kreiss, said, “Sheba is a beacon of light that is always ready to extend a hand to those in dire need of assistance anywhere in the world. This is our personal and professional commitment. The field hospital will feature some of the most innovative technology in the world, enabling us to treat thousands of patients. As an Israeli, I feel a great sense of pride to work in the medical field where all of us can contribute to humankind and offer hope without boundaries.”

In a separate development, the United Nations has denied a report that it instructed its employees not to use the terms “war” or “invasion” when describing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as reported in the Irish Times.

The Irish Times reported Tuesday said that UN employees had received an email warning them refer to the crisis in “non-controversial” terms such as “military conflict.” The report also said that the UN has forbidden its employees to add Ukrainian flags to their personal social media profiles in solidarity with Ukraine.

Speaking to Forbes, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said that it is a “mistaken impression” that staffers were told to not use words like “war” and “invasion” to describe the conflict, pointing out Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo had recently tweeted about the Ukraine crisis using both these terms.

Dujarric said Tuesday that while a global email had urged UN staffers to keep their messaging “consistent” with that of the UN, the policy could not be considered “official and there were no instructions to refrain from using specific words or phrases.