(photo credit: Reuters)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, under international fire for the
imprisonment last month of his political rival Yulia Tymoshenko, arrived
Wednesday for a two-day visit.
It is not clear if, or to what degree, the
imprisonment of Tymoshenko – which has strained Ukraine’s relations with the
European Union and threatens its possibility of joining the EU any time soon –
will come up in Yanukovych’s meetings in Jerusalem.
“We don’t engage in
bilateral visits and meetings with others to preach to them,” one diplomatic
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison on
October 11 for abuse of authority regarding gas contracts drawn up with Russia
Yanukovych met Wednesday a few hours after arriving with Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has placed an emphasis on improving ties with
Lieberman was instrumental in ending earlier this year the need
for visas between the two countries, something that has significantly increased
the number of tourists going back and forth.
From January to October
2011, Ukraine ranked sixth in the number of tourists coming to Israel, following
in descending order the US, Russia, France, Germany, and the United
Some 113,000 Ukrainian tourists visited during this period, a 57
percent increase from the year before, and an increase attributed to an end to
the need for visas.
He is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres on Thursday, as well as with Patriarch
Theophilos III of Jerusalem.
This will be Yanukovych’s first visit to
Israel as president, and follows Peres’ visit there in
Currently the two countries do about $500 million in trade a
year, and the talks are expected to focus on ways to increase that volume, as
well as how to enhance science, technology, cultural and economic cooperation.