Netanyahu Embarks on Two-day Visit to Ukraine a Month Before Israel's Election

Some political sources claim visit is meant to cater to Israeli voters from former USSR, which associates of the premier deny

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Reuters, AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarked Sunday on a two-day trip to Kiev, Ukraine, where he is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and partake in a ceremony at the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial.

Some political sources claim that Netanyahu's trip – which comes a month before Israel's September 17 election – is part of the premier's efforts to garner support among Russian-speaking voters, many of whom tend to back Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman. Sources close to the prime minister deny this claim.

Netanyahu welcomes new immigrants to Israel from Ukraine earlier in August.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu / YouTube

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Zelensky may issue a statement during Netanyahu's visit on resolving the issue of pension rights for Ukrainian immigrants in Israel. Moreover, Ukrainian media has recently reported that Israel may be asked during the visit to help in allaying the tensions between Moscow and Kiev.

Netanyahu is also expected to visit India a week before the election. A week after the election, he will attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Last April, five days before the previous election, Netanyahu visited Russia and attended a Kremlin ceremony for Israeli soldier Staff Sgt. Zachary Baumel, who went missing in the Sultan Yaaqub battle in 1982 and whose remains were returned to Israel with Russia’s help 37 years later.

While Netanyahu is away, Immigrant Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant will be tasked with convening the security cabinet, and will also serve as acting defense minister. Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz will serve as acting prime minister in other areas.