Israel blocked Ukraine from buying the NSO company’s Pegasus spyware, fearing that it would anger Russia, The Guardian reported following a joint investigation with The Washington Post.
Ukraine had been trying to convince Israel to authorize its purchase of Pegasus since 2019, according to the report, citing unnamed sources with “direct knowledge of the matter.” The US government supported Ukraine’s request, the report noted.
NSO Group is regulated by Israel’s Defense Ministry, which never permitted the company to market or sell the its spyware to Ukraine. A senior Ukrainian intelligence official told the newspapers that Israel’s decision had left Ukrainian officials feeling “confused.”
The Guardian reported that Israel’s decision appeared to be a reluctance to anger Russia, which which it has a close intelligence relationship. The report cited sources as saying that Israel feared that granting Ukraine the ability to target Russia-based mobile phone numbers using Pegasus would be viewed as an act of aggression against Russian intelligence services.
NSO said in a statement that “NSO continues to be subjected to inaccurate media reports regarding alleged clients, which are based on hearsay, political innuendo and untruths.” NSO has come under scrutiny following reports that its Pegasus spyware has been used by certain governments around the world to spy on human rights activists, politicians and journalists.