- Putin warns against launching an Israeli ground attack on Gaza
- Putin: Human losses will be “completely unacceptable”
- Russia is ready to help mediate the conflict between Israel and Hamas
BISHKKEK (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel on Friday against imposing a blockade on Gaza in the same way Nazi Germany besieged Leningrad, saying a ground offensive there would lead to an “absolutely unacceptable” number of civilian casualties.
Putin said that Israel was subjected to an “attack of unprecedented cruelty” by Hamas activists, but it responded with harsh methods of its own.
He added that there are calls even in the United States to impose a siege on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, similar to “the siege of Leningrad during World War II.”
“From my point of view, this is unacceptable,” Putin told reporters at a summit in Kyrgyzstan. “More than two million people live there. By the way, not all of them support Hamas, not all of them. But they all have to suffer, including women and children. Of course it is difficult for anyone to agree with this.”
His criticism of Israel was made more scathing by reference to the Siege of Leningrad of 1941-1944 and the implicit comparison between Israel and Hitler’s Germany, with the potential to cause great insult to Israel.
But Putin said that Israel has the right to defend itself.
He was speaking after the Israeli military called on all civilians in Gaza City, more than a million people, to move south within 24 hours, as it mobilized tanks for an expected ground invasion in response to a devastating Hamas attack on Saturday.
Putin said the ground attack would lead to “severe consequences for all parties.”
He added, “More importantly, civilian casualties would be completely unacceptable. The main thing now is to stop the bloodshed.”
Thousands of civilians have been killed in Putin’s February 2022 Ukraine war, which has been raging for nearly 20 months and has included prolonged sieges of Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol and Bakhmut.
Putin called for negotiations in the Middle East, saying that Moscow is “ready to coordinate with all partners with constructive approaches.” He said that the key to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Russia says it is in a position to help mediate because it has relations with Israel, the Palestinians, groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and major Arab powers.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held separate talks in Moscow on Friday with the ambassadors of Israel, Lebanon and Iran, and the Foreign Ministry said that Moscow’s contacts with Hamas will also continue.
Last week, both Moscow and Kiev sought to compare events in the Middle East with the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine likened Moscow to Hamas, while Russia said the West was ignoring the fate of the Palestinians while supporting Israel.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: “More than a million people must be urgently evacuated from Gaza… at the request of the Israeli army. However, all ‘Western partners’ are shamefully silent.”
“I wonder what their reaction would be to a similar request by the Kiev regime to evacuate one of its major cities?”
Writing by Mark Trevelyan and editing by Gareth Jones
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