Maksim Babitzky, the deputy mayor of the Israeli city of Rishon Lezion, was identified as the suspect being investigated for allegedly smuggling a 29-year-old Ukrainian tourist into the country, Ynet reported Sunday.
Babitzky was arrested and questioned on Friday at the National Fraud Investigations Unit in Lahav 433 about his actions. He has since been released to his home but is under heavy restrictions, with his phone having been confiscated by police to investigate his motives.
Why was an Israeli deputy mayor helping smuggle a Ukrainian tourist into Israel?
Babitzky, who immigrated to Israel from Russia in 1995, has been active in helping Ukrainians attempting to flee their country amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Back in March, he reportedly led a delegation of people from Rishon Lezion to the Ukraine-Poland border, bringing food, clothing, medical supplies, diapers and more.
“Children, families, women and elderly people are walking dozens of kilometers just to reach the border. My goal is to pitch a tent with humanitarian aid... and to transfer humanitarian aid to residents of Ukraine who are under heavy fire and the cruel occupation of the Russian Army.”Maksim Babitzky
“Children, families, women and elderly people are walking dozens of kilometers just to reach the border,” Babitzky said at the time. “My goal is to pitch a tent with humanitarian aid... and to transfer humanitarian aid to residents of Ukraine who are under heavy fire and the cruel occupation of the Russian Army.”
He added, “I am traveling to help wholeheartedly and to support the thousands who need help.”
According to Ynet, Babitzky had responded on social media to a post made by the Ukrainian tourist in question, who had asked for assistance in finding a way to enter Israel.
According to a police investigation, some of the woman's close relatives are currently staying in Israel illegally.
The tourist in question is still being held in police custody since she was arrested over the weekend, and her attorney has asked for her release, according to Ynet.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.