Ukraine to retaliate against Israel – envoy

Hasidic pilgrims will now have to get electronic visas, Kiev’s ambassador has said

Ukraine is ready to respond in kind to Israel’s introduction of electronic visas, as the country has denied entry to many of its citizens, Kiev’s envoy in Tel Aviv has announced.

Israel signed a visa-free agreement with Ukraine in 2010, but has recently rolled out electronic travel authorization (ETA-IL) for citizens of visa-exempt countries. The new rules go into effect on July 1.

“The latest requirement effectively ends the visa-free regime,” the Ukrainian embassy said in a Facebook post, adding “in response, Ukraine will impose similar pre-approval requirements for Israeli citizens, including pilgrims.”

The embassy noted that the “reciprocal action will impact thousands of religious pilgrims visiting Ukraine annually,” and that Kiev “remains open to dialogue with Israel to discuss and negotiate these travel policy changes for the benefit of both nations.”

Thousands of Breslover Hasidim traditionally celebrate Jewish New Year in the city of Uman, south of Kiev, and visit the tomb of their movement’s founder, Reb Nachman of Bratslav.

Protesting the “humiliation” of Ukrainians trying to enter Israel last August, Ukrainian Ambassador Evgeny Kornichuk warned West Jerusalem that the pilgrims could bear the brunt of Kiev’s retaliation.

Kiev has long complained about Israel’s reluctance to grant asylum protections to Ukrainian refugees, accusing the government of being more interested in Jewish Ukrainians who might want to immigrate. 

Last year, Kornichuk claimed that about 10% of Ukrainian visitors end up getting deported from Israel without explanation. Israeli authorities countered that anyone suspected of using their tourist visa “unlawfully to work or settle down” is subject to removal. 

Around 83,000 Ukrainian refugees have received some kind of welfare in Israel, but the government in West Jerusalem announced it would stop free medical care for them in early August 2023, pointing to the lack of funds in the state budget

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