By Erin Viner
The MFA elevate its travel warning following a situational assessment during a rare meeting on Saturday. Official matters are rarely conducted on the Sabbath in the Jewish State.
The advisory came the same day United States President Joe Biden told Russia’s Vladimir Putin that the West would respond decisively to any invasion of Ukraine, stressing that any such a step would produce widespread suffering and isolate Moscow.
In the latest effort to manage growing hostility, the two leaders spoke by phone for an hour, just one day after Washington and its allies warned that the Russian military – which has 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine – could invade at any moment. Moscow has dismissed those warnings as “hysteria.”
The US State Department has ordered the evacuation of most of its embassy staff from Ukraine, and the Pentagon said it was withdrawing about 150 military trainers.
Australia announced the evacuation of its embassy in Kiev yesterday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling on China to speak up for Ukraine and not remain “chillingly silent” as Russia massed military forces on its border. Portugal and Belgium also joined the list of countries to urge their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.
The families of Israeli diplomats stationed in Ukraine arrived home yesterday.
“On account of continued tensions and the fear of escalation, the Foreign Ministry is calling on Israeli citizens presently in Ukraine to leave the country as soon as possible,” read an MFA statement obtained by TV7, which also urged Israelis “planning on traveling to Ukraine in the near future to cancel their travel plans at this time.”
The MFA and the Israeli Embassy in Ukraine also requested that any Israeli nationals already in Ukraine register online (at https://survey.gov.il/ru/israelinuk) so that they “can receive updated information in real time.
So far, 6,450 of the 10,000 to 15,000 Israelis believed to currently be in Ukraine have registered with the Israeli Embassy for the updates
“We do not know what the developments will be between Russia and Ukraine,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his Cabinet yesterday morning, adding that, “Like the rest of the world, we hope that the tension will end without escalation; however, our primary obligation is to look after our Israeli citizens. Therefore, over Shabbat, the Foreign Minister and I and our teams took care to greatly increase the pace of flights to Israel.”
There were 10 flights to Israel from Ukraine over the weekend, with 32 more slated for this week. Travel insurance companies have announced that there will be no coverage provided to passengers who depart Ukraine after today.
Prime Minister Bennett issued an unequivocal message: “from here I again call on Israelis in Ukraine: Return home. Do not take unnecessary risks. Do not wait for a situation in which you will very much want to return but will be unable to do so. Be responsible for your lives and leave Ukraine as quickly as possible and come home.”
The Israeli leader convened another meeting of top leaders from relevant ministers and heads of government agencies last night, followed by directives for the IDF and the MFA to prepare for evacuations if necessary.
According to, the Israeli Embassy in Kiev, led by Ambassador Michael Brodsky, “continues to operate with its full team of diplomatic staff remaining in the country.” Meanwhile, the MFA’s Consular Division “will reinforce the Embassy with additional staff in order to manage emergency consular matters.”
Foreign Minister Lapid met with Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova to provide an update about the travel warning. He expressed hope that the escalating crisis will be resolved by diplomatic talks led by the United States, while emphasizing concern for Israelis and Jews in Ukraine. Lapid, who is also Israel’s Alternate Premier, also briefed Minister Emine Dzhaparova on preparations and reinforcements at Israel’s Embassy in Kiev.
Israel’s Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata revealed that Israel is making arrangements for the immediate evacuation of either “tens of thousands or just thousands,” adding that “We have no way to indicate at this moment how many potential immigrants will enter Israel at this point, but we need to be prepared.”
Some 200,000 Ukrainians are eligible to immigrate to Israel if they so choose.
Potential evacuation of Israelis from Ukraine’s western border is being discussed with Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania, said Lapid, adding that the MFA is “proud that we are always there for Israelis in times of need.”
“It’s part of our mission,” he underscored.