Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Ukraine on August 18-20, the first foreign leader to visit the country since Volodymyr Zelenskiy became president.
Netanyahu will become the first Israeli prime minister to visit Kyiv in 20 years and will repeat his trip of March 1999 when he was then the country’s government leader, The Times of Israel reports.
He will meet Zelenskiy and pay a visit to the Babyn Yar memorial, the site in Kyiv where Nazis killed more than 33,000 Jews in 1941, as well as Ukrainian nationalists, Roma, homosexuals, and others whom they considered “undesirables.”
Netanyahu’s visit comes less than a month before elections to the Knesset, Israel’s unicameral national legislature.
Ukraine and Israel are the world’s only two countries in which the president and prime ministers are Jews.
Ukraine’s prime minister is Volodymyr Hroysman and Israel’s president is Reuven Rivlin.
Zelenskiy signed a free-trade pact with Israel on August 7 that parliament ratified a month earlier.
Trade turnover between the two countries last year equaled $1.34 billion, consisting mostly of grain, ferrous metals, chemicals, and mineral fuel.
According to the deal, duties will be cancelled for approximately 80 percent of Israeli goods and 70 percent of Ukrainian.
Netanyahu was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Zelenskiy on his landslide victory in April. During his phone call, the Israeli prime minister expressed hope in “continuing good relations between the countries” and invited him to Israel.
After his victory, Zelenskiy met with rabbis in Ukraine and Israel’s environment minister in Jerusalem.
When Ukraine and Israel officially signed their free-trade deal in January, Netanyahu announced relations with Kyiv are “strong” and are based on “deep historical and cultural roots.”
Ukraine ranks fourth among what Israel calls “righteous nations” who helped save lives during the Holocaust when Nazi Germany killed more than 6 million Jews. More than 2,600 Ukrainians are listed as “righteous.”
Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir, was born in Kyiv and lived there until she was eight before emigrating to the United States.