The Ukrainian government is threatening to impose sanctions on private Israeli citizens, or Israeli companies, doing business in Russian-occupied Crimea.
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The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel published an announcement to that effect on its website on Friday, in English and Ukrainian. The embassy had received information, the announcement said, that Israeli citizens were entering areas of Crimea conquered by Russia and in violation of Ukrainian law, were conducting business collaborations with the "illegal authorities," instead of receiving permits from the Ukraine government.
"The Embassy states that such actions are considered as the violation of the Ukrainian legislation, in particular the Law of Ukraine, 'on ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens and legal regime of the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine,'" the embassy stated.
The embassy also stressed that economic activity with the Russian occupying forces in Crimea constitutes a violation of international law, and contravenes a UN General Assembly resolution from March 2014, which stressed the need to maintain the "territorial integrity of Ukraine."
The background to this bizarre announcement remains utterly unclear. A great many citizens live in Israel and some of them are businessmen, and some of those also hold Ukrainian citizenship – dual citizenship is not rare in Israel.)
"In the case of the continuation of such actions, the relevant information will be transmitted to the competent authorities of Ukraine to further bring to justice perpetrators of violations of the current legislation," the announcement goes on to state. "It will be also considered the inclusion of the relevant Israeli companies [collaborating with the Russian occupation of Crimea] to the list of legal entities, which are subject to special restrictive measures (sanctions)."
Israel's policy towards the invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea in February 2014 has been extremely ginger. In contrast to the rest of the West, Israel did not condemn Russia or declare its support for Ukraine's territorial integrity. On the other hand, Israel maintained close relations with the Ukrainian government and even accepted Ukrainian soldiers wounded in fighting with Russia to Israeli hospitals.
Israel's policy towards the Russia-Ukraine crisis, led by former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, was dictated mainly by the fear that if Israel expressed support for Ukraine, Vladimir Putin's regime would react with steps that hurt Israel's security interests in the Middle East – notably regarding Syria and Iran. The Israeli approach on the subject even caused no small discomfort at the White House and at the foreign office in Washington.
In December 2015, Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko visited Israel. During the gala Knesset session held during the visit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Poroshenko for the support Ukraine gives Israel in international forums, but did not voice support for Ukraine regarding Crimea.
"We thank you for your support of our position in international forums, and I want to express my hope here, Mr. President, that a quick, peaceful solution will be found for the conflict in your area," Netanyahu said. "I know how important it is to you to assure a future of peace and prosperity and security for Ukraine, for the Ukrainian people."