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Kyiv mayor: Huge mistake for Israel to remain neutral, ‘we’re defending Europe’

16 23 4

KYIV — “Shalom!” exclaimed Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko as he bounded into his second-floor office at the city’s municipal building and took my suddenly tiny and inadequate hand in his massive paw.

The Hebrew greeting when we met in the heart of the Ukrainian capital last Tuesday wasn’t the only evidence of the former heavyweight boxing champion’s connection to Judaism and Israel: He prominently displays a menorah, kiddush cup, sculpture of Jerusalem, hamsa, and Hebrew-Russian Bible on the shelf behind his desk. His son recently returned from a four-month internship at an investment firm in Israel. Klitschko’s paternal grandmother was Jewish.

But those ties — and his 2014 trip to Israel as a newly elected mayor — don’t keep him from criticizing Israel’s stance on the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

“It’s the biggest mistake, right now, to take a neutral position if Israel promotes democratic values and sees Ukraine as a peaceful country,” Klitschko said, speaking an English reminiscent of his boxing style — awkward but forceful. “It always was a peaceful country where peaceful people live. We never, ever were aggressive to anyone.”

Some of Klitschko’s Jewish ancestors, who would have witnessed the violent pogroms over the last 400 years at the hands of Ukrainian Cossacks, nationalists, and Nazi collaborators, may have taken issue with that characterization. Members of the Jewish side of Klitschko’s family were killed during the Holocaust.

But if he’s referring to the recent past, he’s on far firmer footing.

Klitschko argued that it is Israel’s moral duty to impose sanctions on Russia.

“Right now, what Russia did is break all international rules,” Klitschko said. “At the end of the day, it can touch the interest of Israel also. And my message is: Stop the trade relationship with Russia because every cent, every dollar you send to Russia, it’s bloody money.”

Israel has sought to maintain open channels with both Russia and Ukraine during the war. Senior leaders have condemned the February 24........

© The Times of Israel

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