Netanyahu meets Ukrainian president

Agence France-Presse. Jerusalem | Published at 02:01pm on August 19, 2019

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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects the site where an off-duty Israeli soldier was found dead with stab wounds near the settlement of Migdal Oz in the occupied West Bank on August 8, 2019. — AFP photo

Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarked Sunday on an official visit to Ukraine — from which many Israelis hail — a month ahead of the Jewish state’s elections.

Netanyahu said he was travelling at the invitation of Ukraine’s recently elected president Volodymyr Zelensky, in what Israeli media reported was the first visit to the country by an Israeli PM for 20 years.

In a video released on YouTube, Netanyahu said the two men would discuss the ‘establishment of a free trade area, the pensions agreement and a host of other issues that will further strengthen the excellent relationship between the two countries’.

More than a million people from former Soviet republics came to Israel after the Iron Curtain fell.

Israeli society assimilated the equivalent of a fifth of its population.

Netanyahu also plans to visit the Babi Yar memorial, the site of a major Holocaust massacre in April 1941 that saw more than 33,000 Ukrainian Jews shot dead by Nazi troops.

Analysts say Netanyahu is seeking to bolster the standing of his Likud party among Israelis of Ukrainian origin ahead of legislative polls due on September 17.

Such voters have historically been inclined to vote for the nationalist and pro-Russian Yisrael Beitenu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman.

Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies won the most seats in an April election but failed to forge a viable coalition.