Special Report on Israeli Prime Minister's Visit to Ukraine | August 19-20, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. August 20, 2019
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Kyiv, Ukraine on Sunday for a two-day summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – the nation’s first Jewish head of state. This marks the first official visit to the country in 20 years by an Israeli head of state.

On Monday, Netanyahu and Zelenskyy both gave heartfelt speeches at Babi Yar – a ravine running throughout Kyiv’s Dorohozhychi neighborhood and the site of one of the largest massacres of the Holocaust. In September of 1941 over 33,000 Jews were killed there via machine gun fire and thrown into the ravine. Netanyahu – who also visited Babi Yar as PM in 1999 – struck an emotional chord, saying that Israel has a “constant duty to stand against murderous ideologies in order to ensure that there will never be another Babi Yar.” Zelesnkyy struck a similar note, professing that “the Ukrainian people will always remember crimes against humanity. We will never forget what racism and xenophobia lead to.”

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. Groysman applauded the warming of Israeli-Ukrainian ties – mainly touching on the extension of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the nations, noting that their "economies will be more integrated, we will expand the opportunities [associated with]…the FTA, develop the services [sector]…and invent new investment mechanisms."

Ukraine and Israel agreed to several new joint projects and goals. Kyiv will open a high-tech office in Jerusalem – with Israel reciprocally opening up a similar bureau in the Ukrainian capital. Netanyahu expressed hope that this would be the first step to a Ukrainian Embassy in Jerusalem. Netanyahu also used the visit as a means to secure pension payments for the approximately 8,000 Ukrainians eligible under the program currently residing in Israel. The outcome of this, however, will depend on Ukraine’s newly elected Parliament, as the government has already approved the measure. The two countries also agreed on a tourism project in Uman, the location of the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov – a popular prayer site visited annually by tens of thousands of Israelis. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu also met with Jewish community leaders on Tuesday. NCSEJ Ukraine Representative Ilya Bezruchko attended the meeting. During his speech at the event, Netanyahu said, “Our people were almost completely eradicated. We were massacred without mercy. And today our people live in a strong, robust, advanced and prosperous nation—first and foremost thanks to the strength of our faith.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu walk outside the Mariyinsky Palace, Kyiv, August 19 
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in Mariyinsky Palace, Kyiv, August 19 
Benjamin Netanyahu participates in a flower-laying ceremony to the Holodomor Victims Memorial, , August 19
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu participates in the commemoration of the Babyn Yar victims, August 19
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, August 20

By Natalia Datskevych, Matthew Kupfer
Kyiv Post, August 19

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay an official visit to Ukraine on Aug. 19 and meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, the first such trip by the Israeli head of state in 20 years.
That last Israeli prime minister to visit was also Netanyahu in 1999, at the tail end of his first term as prime minister. This time, Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive on Aug. 18. He will take part in a series of meetings and ceremonies on Aug. 19 and depart the next day.

By Boris Lozhkin
The Jerusalem Post, August 18

As Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Kiev this week, becoming the first Israeli prime minister to visit Ukraine in 20 years, international attention has largely focused on his political ambitions back home to explain the timing of this long-overdue trip. However, what commentators have failed to mention is the visit’s historic and cultural significance that goes far beyond winning over Ukrainian Israeli voters in the Knesset elections on September 17.

By the Jerusalem Post editorial
The Jerusalem Post, August 19 

Boris Lozhkin, president of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote that the visit “coincides with a reinvigoration of Israel-Ukrainian relations." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Ukraine this week for an historic visit, the first by an Israeli prime minister in 20 years. Ukraine is important to Israel for a variety of reasons, including history and because of a large population of Israelis whose relatives came from Ukraine, as well as emerging trade and cultural ties.

By Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post, August 20

Faith is Israel's secret to success, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to Jewish leaders in Kiev on Tuesday in an address shot through with religious motifs.
"It is very moving to be here, and to again visit Babi Yar, and to understand the incredible distance we traveled from the fields of slaughter to the peaks of nations. Israel today is a world power, a rising power in the world,” he said.
1120 20th Street NW, Ste. 300N Washington, DC 20036-3413
Telephone: +1 202 898 2500  |  ncsejinfo@ncsej.org
 Founded in 1971, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.