(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Ukraine in what some in the Russian media are saying is a U.S.-led push for peace between the two Slavic nations.
Netanyahu, who is scheduled to meet Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a part of Washington’s attempt to facilitate Zelensky’s task “of ending the conflict with Russia in behind-the-scenes negotiations,” the Russian daily Nasha Versia reported Monday.
Israel, which has good relations with Moscow and Kiev, has maintained a nonalignment policy in the Ukraine-Russia conflict that erupted in 2014. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and helped rebels in Ukraine’s east set up pro-Russian enclaves, citing the alleged risk to civilians and minorities from Ukrainian nationalism. Unlike Israel, the United States, the European Union and most other Western countries condemned the Russian intervention.
Netanyahu is scheduled to participate in a commemoration for victims of Babi Yar, a patchwork of ravines outside Kiev where more than 33,000 Jews were executed by firing squads on Sept. 29-30, 1941.
It will be his first visit to Ukraine since the April election of Zelensky, who is Jewish. Zelensky said in May that he considers Israel a role model when it comes to self defense.
“We must become Icelanders in soccer, Israelis in defending our land, Japanese in technology,” he said.
Ukraine is the only country besides Israel to have a president and prime minister who are Jewish. Volodymyr Groysman, a former mayor of the western city of Vinnitsa, is the prime minister.