Philanthropists in Israel resign from charity foundation after Russia sanctions

The charity organisation, which is not affected by sanctions, will continue its work

A woman in Israel's city of Tel Aviv waves a Ukrainian national flag during a protest against Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. AFP

Three business tycoons have resigned from a major philanthropy group that funds causes in Israel as they face sanctions tied to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan will relinquish their roles at Genesis Philanthropy Group, the organisation said.

"In order to assure the ability of GPG to stay true to its mission and build on the foundation we have created over the past 15 years, all three have resigned from the board of directors," the group's chairman of the board Gennady Gazin and chief executive Marina Yudborovsky said, AFP reported.

Genesis is registered in the UK but is a major funder of causes in Israel including the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

The three men have been listed under international sanctions over suspected ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Fridman, who was born in Ukraine, is one of Russia's richest men, and Russian-born Mr Aven stepped down earlier this month from the LetterOne investment fund they co-founded.

They deny any "financial or political relationship" with the Russian president.

Mr Fridman and Mr Khan, who was also born in Ukraine, are co-founders of Alfa-Bank, Russia's largest private lender.

Genesis, which says it "seeks to strengthen Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide", has pledged $10 million to help Jews affected by the crisis in Ukraine.

Mr Gazin, also born in Ukraine, is not affected by the sanctions, and said he would stay on and the resignations would not affect Genesis's commitments.

Moscow's invasion of Ukraine has put a new spotlight on wealthy Jewish Russians in Israel said to be connected to Mr Putin.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial suspended ties with billionaire Roman Abramovich this month, just weeks after it had announced a historic partnership that museum officials said made him their second-largest donor.

Mr Abramovich, who holds Russian and Israeli citizenship, was photographed at Tel Aviv airport on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Moscow to meet Mr Putin this month and has attempted to mediate between the Russian leader and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Israel has resisted imposing sanctions on Russia, despite requests from Ukraine and the US.

Israeli leaders say they need to preserve security co-ordination with Moscow, which has troops operating in neighbouring Syria.

Mr Zelenskyy is scheduled to speak via video call to Israel's Knesset, or parliament, on Sunday.

Updated: March 20, 2022, 7:47 PM