MOSCOW, Feb. 18 (JTA) — A former head of the Ukrainian government who immigrated to Israel after allegations of embezzlement is expected to return soon to Kiev. Yefim Zvyagilsky, who was the country’s acting prime minister from 1993 to 1994, was granted parliamentary immunity last week after the Ukrainian Parliament dismissed all charges previously brought against him. Zvyagilsky originally was accused by the media and some members of Parliament of embezzling $25 million in public funds. Jewish officials in Kiev praised the Parliament’s decision to grant Zvyagilsky immunity. Zvyagilsky wants very much to come back to Ukraine, where he left his 88-year-old mother, one Jewish official said in a telephone interview. According to Arkady Monastyrsky, vice president of the Jewish Council of Ukraine, the nation’s umbrella Jewish organization, citizens of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine recently collected 40,000 signatures to encourage Zvyagilsky to return. Zvyagilsky served as mayor of Donetsk before he was appointed acting premier. Shortly after Zvyagilsky moved to Israel more than two years ago, a group of parliamentary members representing far right and Communist factions visited him. Upon their return to Kiev, the legislators issued a statement saying that Zvyagilsky had not been involved in the illegal dealings ascribed to him. No formal investigation has ever been carried out. Zvyagilsky is now working as a consultant for an Israeli electronics company. In an interview published last week in a Kiev daily newspaper, Zvyagilsky said his premiership was a “tragedy” for him as a Jew. Zvyagilsky called the media campaign against him a “moral terror.” He believes he fell victim to groundless allegations mainly because he is Jewish. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Gennady Udovenko said during his visit to Washington last year that Ukrainian authorities might want to think twice about appointing Jews to senior offices in the future. Udovenko later said that reporters misinterpreted his remark.
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