Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a rare travel warning Wednesday, recommending Israelis not enter Crimea, currently occupied by Russia, without a permit from the Ukrainian government. The warning warned that doing so constituted a criminal offence in Ukraine and may result in criminal proceedings in the country against offenders.
The warning was prompted by an emphatic protest by the Ukrainian government over the traveling of an Israeli member of parliament to Crimea.
"We would like to bring to your attention that entering the Crimean Peninsula by anyway other way than through Ukraine constitutes a criminal offense under Ukrainian law," the warning posted on the ministry's website read, "according to Ukrainian law, entrance into Crimea requires a special permit issued by the Ukrainian immigration authority."
The warning is very unusual since it doesn't touch on general danger posed by traveling to the region, as travel warnings usually do, but is tied to a diplomatic issue stemming from the conflict between Ukraine and Russia following the latter's invasion and annexation of the peninsula.
The call to follow Ukrainian law with regard to Crimea is the first time Israel publicly, if indirectly, made a statement on Crimea since the Russian invasion and annexation of the peninsula. From the warning, Israel's recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty of Crimea can be read in between the lines.
The main reason the foreign ministry issued its warning is a protest by the Ukrainian government over the visit of MK Ya'akov Margi (Shas) in Crimea, several weeks ago, where he held meetings with the heads of the Russian-controlled local government there.
Margi's visit prompted the Ukrainians to threaten Israel with sanctions - namely, not issuing visas to Jewish pilgrims traveling to Uman on pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Ukraine also announced that it was opening a criminal investigation against Margi.
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