Oleksandr Hranovsky, an ex-member of the Ukrainian parliament and formerly one of the closest allies of ex-President Petro Poroshenko, received an immigration visa that provides him with Israeli citizenship, according to Kyiv Post sources.
On Aug. 18, Hranovsky was allegedly granted an aliyah-category visa sticker at the Israeli Embassy in Kyiv. The term “aliyah” refers to the immigration of Jews to Israel. The visa gives Hranovsky the right to automatically obtain an Israeli passport.
Hranovsky neither confirmed nor denied receiving the Israeli immigration visa.
“I do not break the Ukrainian laws,” he said in a message.
He also said that he does not comment on citizenship matters after having denied getting other countries’ citizenship several times.
Hranovsky’s apparent immigration efforts take place at a time when Poroshenko and his allies face investigations in Ukraine. Another Poroshenko top ally, businessman and ex-defense official Oleh Hladkovsky, was indicted and arrested on Oct. 17.
Hranovsky himself is facing investigation.
In July the State Bureau of Investigations launched an investigation into Hranovsky, Ukrainian media reported on Oct. 23. The Kyiv Post confirmed this through its sources. The former lawmaker is allegedly suspected of abuse of power.
Hranovsky allegedly received the visa in his last month as a sitting member of the Ukrainian parliament, where he had immunity from prosecution. A month before the visa’s issuance, Hranovsky lost his bid for reelection in snap parliamentary elections held on July 21.
Israel is known for its reluctance to extradite its citizens who are wanted in other countries.
Hranovsky was known as a special envoy for Poroshenko during his presidency, sorting out issues related to courts and prosecution.
He and his fellow lawmaker, Poroshenko’s closest business partner Ihor Kononenko, were spotted arriving at the Presidential Administration when Poroshenko met with representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) or other top law-and-order officials.
“There was an entire department in the Prosecutor General’s Office that was (unofficially) called ‘Kononenko-Hranovsky’s department. According to various sources close to the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (party), Hranovsky was the one in charge of their work,” said Daria Kaleniuk, a co-founder and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center.
Hranovsky has repeatedly denied influencing the courts and law enforcement.
Hranovsky is also known in the Ukrainian Jewish community for sitting on the local board of Jewish international nonprofit Hillel.
Ukrainian law on dual citizenship
Ukrainian law does not allow dual citizenship and, therefore, does not recognize other passports held by its citizens. However, there is no punishment for having a second or even third passport.
However, receiving the immigration visa is not illegal on its own, and Hranovsky may have not violated the law yet if he has not landed in Israel.
“Such a person would breach the law when receiving the actual Israeli passport in the airport of Tel Aviv,” lawyer Oleksii Boiko told Kyiv Post.
The aliyah visa that Hranovsky allegedly holds is designed for immigration only. As soon as he steps into Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, he gets an Israeli ID card, according to Israeli immigration procedures. His visa allows him to immigrate before Jan. 17, 2020.
Hranovsky allegedly received his immigration visa on Aug. 18, which means that he was still an acting lawmaker at the time. According to Ukrainian law, the parliament is recognized as valid until the newly-elected one holds its first session, which only took place on Aug. 29.
The fact that Hranovsky was still a parliamentarian when seeking Israeli citizenship and receiving his visa can be controversial. Had he immigrated to Israel while still a member of parliament, his membership would have been terminated.
“According to the law on lawmaker status, a lawmaker shall be dismissed when his citizenship is terminated or he leaves Ukraine to reside abroad,” said Boiko.
Usually, the process of receiving Israeli citizenship takes up to six months, an agent of a Kyiv-based visa service center told the Kyiv Post off the record. Israeli governmental websites confirm that, advising applicants to start the process six months in advance.
However, the conditions for applicants may differ from case to case, and it is possible to get such a visa faster, the agent said. If Hranovsky applied directly after losing in the July election, he would have managed to secure immigration for himself in less than a month — a rather rapid timeframe.
The immigration process, regardless of its speed, requires several time-consuming steps: gathering all necessary documents, passing all checks, interviews and, finally, receiving a decision.
The first step is with the Jewish Agency for Israel. “Your journey back to Israel begins here,” its website states. The Agency handles immigration from the Jewish diaspora to Israel.
The country’s Law of Return provides that “every Jew has the right to immigrate to this country” provided that he proves his Jewish roots. The Agency is the one that confirms candidates’ eligibility and guides them through the process of aliyah, a Hebrew word that refers to immigration to Israel.
The applicant has to prepare numerous documents and may be asked to visit the Agency’s local center for an interview. After the Agency approves the candidate, he heads to an Israeli consulate for a face-to-face interview, which must be scheduled in advance. The wait time for this appointment can be two months, one applicant told the Kyiv Post.
After some time, the applicant receives a decision.
The Kyiv Post contacted the Embassy of Israel in Kyiv about Hranovsky’s immigration, but it declined to comment, stating that it does not disclose private information.
Israeli citizenship benefits
Newcomers who arrive under The Law of Return are warmly welcomed in Israel. The country pays for the flight ticket, provides a certain sum of money upon arrival, and grants new immigrants multiple tax benefits.
Among these benefits are an income tax reduction for the first three and a half years of residency in Israel and an exemption from reporting and paying taxes on any income from a country other than Israel for 10 years.
If Hranovsky decides to start a business in Israel, as a new immigrant he will be exempt from customs taxes on importing professional equipment for his business – from Ukraine, for example — up to $36,000 in value for three years. He would also be able to purchase a house and a car at a reduced tax rate.
Other citizenship allegations
Hranovsky has been repeatedly suspected of having other citizenships.
Moldova, Turkey, Israel, America, Hungary, and Romania — Hranovsky has been accused of holding the citizenship of all these countries, he admitted in an interview with the NewsOne TV channel. However, he denied having anything other than a Ukrainian passport.
In July, a few Ukrainian media outlets reported that Hranovsky had fled to Israel. He strongly denied this, calling the journalists who reported it “clowns.”
Hranovsky’s daughters, Nonna and Asya, have U.S. citizenship. That is because they were born in America, Hranovsky explained in an interview with the 112 Ukraine TV channel in 2016.
Investigations against Poroshenko’s circle
The investigation against Hranovsky, which started in July, is allegedly connected to his re-election campaign for parliament.
He ran as an independent candidate in Kharkiv and lost with just 16 percent of the vote. His competitor from the Servant of the People party of President Volodymyr Zelensky, Oleksandr Kunytsky, won 48 percent.
It is alleged that Hranovsky was involved in the abuse of power against his rival Kunytsky. The Central Election Commission banned Kunytsky from participating in the election for not being present in Ukraine for the past five years. However, a court lifted the ban as Kunytsky proved he was abroad for work trips.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies launched several investigations into Hranovsky’s former allies, including Poroshenko. More than a dozen cases involving Poroshenko were opened based upon reports filed by Andriy Portnov, a former deputy head of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration who has long been vindictive toward Poroshenko. Possible abuse of power, illegal border crossing, and interference in the work of Ukrainian courts are among allegations against Poroshenko that the investigators will look into.
Others are being investigated for corruption.
Poroshenko’s business partner Hladkovsky, whom the president appointed to the National Security and Defense Council, was arrested on Oct. 17 on charges of abuse of office. Hladkovsky is suspected of using his influence to give a lucrative state defense contract to his own car-manufacturing company.
Kononenko, Poroshenko’s key business partner and a former member of his party, left Ukraine on the day Hladkovsky was arrested, saying he was traveling to China to watch a tennis tournament.
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