Visit of FM Peres to the Ukraine

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson)
December 25, 2001

Foreign Minister Peres departs today (December 25) for an official two-day visit to Kiev, on the invitation of his Ukrainian counterpart, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko. The visit takes place, on the tenth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Ukraine. Foreign Minister Peres will meet with the President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh and Foreign Minister Zlenko.

During the visit, the Minister will call on the Ukrainian Government to accelerate the negotiations for the payment of compensation to the families of Israeli victims who died in the "Siberian Airlines" air crash over the Black Sea on October 4, 2001. Ukraine accepted responsibility for the accidental downing of the airliner, after a missile was fired inadvertently.

Minister Peres will lay a wreath at Babi Yar – the site where 35,000 Jews were murdered by Nazis and local collaborators in September 1941. By the end of the Second World War, almost 100,000 Ukrainian Jews had been killed.

Foreign Minister Peres will address students and staff at the Institute of International Relations at Kiev State University. He will also lay a wreath at the monument of national poet Taras Shevchenko. The Minister will visit the offices of the Jewish Agency in Kiev, and will meet with Jews planning to emigrate to Israel.

According to various estimates, almost 400,000 Jews live in the Ukraine, and are eligible to emigrate to Israel. The Jewish community in the Ukraine is the third largest in Europe, after Russia and France. In 2001, 15,000 Ukrainians emigrated to Israel. 400,000 Ukrainians have emigrated to Israel since 1989.

Foreign Minister Peres will discuss with his hosts the issue of the promotion of bilateral economic and trade ties. In 2001, the volume of trade between Israel and the Ukraine stood at $120 million.