MK Yakov Margi (Shas) got into trouble following a visit he paid to the Russian occupied territory of Crimea in the Ukraine. Margi, met with the leader of the Russian puppet government, President of the Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov.
The meeting took place last week on Wednesday in Crimea and according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office was in violation of Ukrainian law. The Prosecutor General has since opened an investigation against Margi.
The Prosecutor General issued a statement which said that Margi visited the province and brought evidence that the police had collected from various media outlets to prove their case. Visiting the province is banned under Ukrainian law and violates the international sanctions imposed on Russia because of its invasion and annexation of the peninsula, said the statement.
Margi currently serves as a Shas MK and as the chairman of the Knesset’s Education committee.
Ukrainian law states that any foreigner who wishes to visit the Crimean Peninsula must receive permission to do so from the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
“In light of all of the above, an initial criminal investigation into the case on suspicion of violation of the law has begun,” said the statement from the Prosecutor General’s Office. “Evidence that will be gathered will be passed on from the prosecutor’s special Crimea office to the Prosecutor General’s Office to determine whether to prosecute.”
Following the incident the Ukrainian embassy in Tel Aviv submitted an official letter of protest to the Foreign Ministry and the office of Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri. The letter said that the Ukrainian government is considering indicting Margi and prosecuting him in absentia.
“MK Margi violated the law, and we are weighing to prosecute him,” the letter stated. “We ask that you pass on this message to the Israeli public, to government officials and elected officials.”
It is important to note that Aksyonov’s government is not recognized by any Western country and that it is only recognized by seven countries around the world, which include, Russia, Syria, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba.
Israeli diplomats disavowed any foreknowledge or responsibility for Margi’s visit. According to a report in Haaretz, senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said that neither Margi’s visit to Crimea nor his meetings with the local authorities there were planned with the Foreign Ministry. Knesset sources said that Margi’s trip was not an official Knesset visit and that he had presented it to the Knesset Ethics Committee for its approval as a private visit.
Margi wrote in his travel request that the trip was at the invitation of the rabbi of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Binyomin Wolff, to tour Jewish institutions in the city, as the trip was of a private nature the Ethics Committee had approved the trip.