Ukraine threatens Uman visa bans following Israeli minister’s Crimea visit


(JTA) — Ukraine threatened to tighten visa requirements for Israeli tourists following an Israeli minister’s meeting with the governor of an area that Russia annexed from Ukraine.

Ukraine made the threat in a letter sent this week by its ambassador in Tel Aviv, Gennady Nadolenko, to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Segodnya daily reported Thursday. That following the Wednesday visit by Israel’s minister of religious services, Ya’akov Margi, to Crimea, and his meeting there with Gov. Sergei Aksenov. Russia annexed Crimea, which had been part of Ukraine, in 2014. Ukraine did not consent to the move and does not recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

“Ukraine may take measures for the introduction of various forms of visas for religious pilgrims flying from Israel to Uman,” Nadolenko wrote, “in reaction to the violation of Ukrainian law on the part of Ya’akov Margi, deputy chairman of the Shas Party.”

The ambassador also wrote Margi may be banned from entering Ukraine and prosecuted, as his actions violated Ukrainian law.

The central city of Uman attracts thousands of tourists annually from Israel because it is the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, an 18th-century Hasidic luminary. Israel and Ukraine signed a visa-waiver agreement in 2011.

Diverging from the United States and the European Union’s harsh rejection of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Israel has remained silent on the matter — a move widely seen as a bid to preserve good relations with Russia.

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