Netanyahu congratulates new Ukraine president, invites him to Israel
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Netanyahu congratulates new Ukraine president, invites him to Israel

PM also phones outgoing leader Petro Poroshenko to thank him for Israel support, ambassador says

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine's presidential election, at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, on April 21, 2019. (Genya Savilov/AFP)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine's presidential election, at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, on April 21, 2019. (Genya Savilov/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Ukraine’s newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday and invited him to visit Israel.

Netanyahu “congratulated him for his victory, expressed his hope to continue the good relations between our countries and invited him to visit Israel,” according to Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lion.

“In another phone call, Netanyahu thanked outgoing Ukrainian President Poroshenko for his friendship toward the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” he added.

Israel and Ukraine in January signed a free trade agreement as Poroshenko visited Jerusalem.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the signing of a free trade agreement in the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, January 21, 2019. (Jim Hollander/Pool via AP)

Zelensky, a 41-year-old comic with no political experience, was elected Sunday on promises of change but has generally stood by the Western-oriented course of defeated president Poroshenko. Zelensky hailed his victory as a sign to people in post-Soviet nations that “everything is possible,” but he also has said he wants better relations with Russia.

The leaders of the United States, the European Union, Germany and France also phoned Zelenskiy, who is Jewish, to give their congratulations.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that Zelensky’s victory showed Ukraine’s “vibrant democracy” after “five years of unrelenting Russian aggression.”

“The United States maintains steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its international borders and will continue to stand with Ukraine as it undertakes essential reforms,” she said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky to advance our two nations’ shared goal of a secure, prosperous, democratic and free Ukraine,” she said.

Russia has taken a wait-and-watch approach to Zelensky, with the Kremlin saying it was too early for President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him.

Moscow “respects the choice of the Ukrainian people” and will wait for concrete steps by the new Ukrainian leader before making judgments, Peskov said.

Following the victory of Zelensky, Ukraine will become the only country in the world besides Israel whose president and prime minister are both Jewish.

When Zelensky is sworn in as president, his prime minister — at least for a while and possibly until the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place sometime later this year — will be Volodymyr Groysman, a Jewish politician who was the mayor of the city of Vinnytsia.

Last year, Israel’s government singled out Ukraine as a regional trouble spot in the Israeli government’s annual report on anti-Semitism.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman gestures as he speaks at a meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s supporters in Kiev, Ukraine, on January 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Poroshenko’s government greatly encouraged glorification of those troops and leaders as fighters for Ukrainian freedom who it insisted sided with Germany only in order to fight against the Russian-controlled Soviet Union.

Zelensky has said only that he personally does not favor the veneration of people like Bandera, whom he described as “a hero to some Ukrainians.” It was a markedly reserved formulation compared to the unreserved endorsement of figures like Bandera by officials under Poroshenko.

In 2016, Netanyahu canceled the Israel visit of Groysman as a consequence of Kiev voting in a favor of an anti-settlements resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

The two countries, however, later reconciled.

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