Euroasian Jewish News
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy being sworn into office
Why did Israel snub new Jewish president of Ukraine?
Ukraine's new Jewish president Volodymyr Zelenskiy was sworn into office Monday in Kiev, but not one single Israeli minister or senior official was present at the event. Instead, the country relied its ambassador to Kiev, Joel Lion, to represent the government.
Ukraine-Israeli sources cited Jerusalem's reluctance to irk Russia as the reason for decision to skip the ceremony, but warned that such a step could backfire and cause harm to relations with the new Ukrainian regime.Observers say the Ukrainians expected a high-level delegation from Israel to attend.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to congratulate Zelensky after his win last month. In a subsequent meeting with Likud Minister Ze'ev Elkin, bilateral relations were discussed and an invitation to visit Israel was extended.
High-ranking officials from over 50 countries, including the U.S. and Canada were present at the ceremony in Kiev. No Russian representatives attended, as relations between Kiev and Moscow remain strained over Crimea.
Zelenskiy won 73% of the vote last month in a landslide victory that reflected Ukrainians' exhaustion with widespread corruption and the country's political elite. Even before he disbanded the Supreme Rada, which had been one of his campaign promises, the 41-year-old Zelenskiy upended other Ukrainian political traditions Monday.
He ditched the idea of a traditional motorcade to his inauguration, walking to parliament in the capital of Kiev through a park packed with people. Flanked by four bodyguards, the beaming president-elect gave high-fives to some spectators, even stopping to take a selfie with one of them.
After he was sworn in but before he moved to dissolve parliament, Zelenskiy asked the Supreme Rada to adopt a bill against illegal enrichment and support his motions to fire the country's defense minister, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service and the Prosecutor General.
All of them are allies of former president Petro Poroshenko, who lost the election to the comedian with no previous political experience but who played the Ukrainian head of state on a popular TV show for years.
In a feisty speech after his inauguration, Zelenskiy told the Rada that his main goal for the presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years in a conflict that has left at least 13,000 dead.
"I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there," he said. "It wasn't us who started that war. But we need to be the one to finish it."
As ministers and lawmakers listened with dismay, Zelenskiy urged everyone in the cabinet to resign, asking them to "free the spot for people who will think about the future generations, not about the future elections."
Many lawmakers had already viewed Zelenskiy's inauguration with apprehension, and it was not clear if the new president could legally dissolve the sitting parliament. Political factions have been maneuvering for weeks trying to avoid such a situation.
The new president wrapped up his speech at parliament by referring to his career as a comedian.
"Throughout all of my life, I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians laugh," he said with a smile. "In the next five years I will do everything, Ukrainians, so that you don't cry."