image Photo: Reuters

Israel moves embassy amid Ukraine crisis

Mounting tensions on the Russia-Ukraine front prompted Jerusalem’s decision to follow in the footsteps of Washington, Ottawa and London to relocate its official embassy from Kiev to the western city of Lviv.

By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) released a statement announcing that the move followed “a situation assessment” and “discussions with various international actors.

The consular office in Lviv has been working to provide travel documents to Israeli citizens since 17 February to help Israelis interested in leaving the country, primarily through land border crossings to neighboring countries.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stressed during a telephone conversation with  Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky that Jerusalem’s top priority is to safeguard the lives of its “emissaries and citizens of the State of Israel, as well as the large Jewish community in the country.”

Minister Lapid thanked Ambassador Brodsky and the entire embassy team, as well as MFA staff, for their accurate and efficient assessments and execution of the evacuation procedure.

The MFA stressed that it is “prepared for any development, including the possibility of a land exit. Within this framework, Israeli diplomats stationed in Lviv as well as those serving in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary have held visits to border crossings with Ukraine, and meetings with the authorities at the crossings, in order to ensure the passage of Israeli citizens who wish to leave Ukraine.”

The Foreign Ministry also reiterated its call to all Israeli citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.

A short time ago (at 2:24 PM Israel time), the MFA issued a further urgent statement on Twitter.

Following is the full text of the MFA message:

Israel shares the concern of the international community regarding the steps taken in eastern Ukraine and the serious escalation in the situation. Israel hopes for a diplomatic solution which will lead to calm and is willing to help if asked.

Israel supports the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Israel is concerned about the welfare of thousands of Israeli citizens living in Ukraine and the welfare of the large Jewish community in the country.

Israel is ready and willing to immediately transfer humanitarian assistance to Ukraine according to its needs and is in contact with the Ukrainian authorities regarding the matter.

Israel is continuing to engage in dialogue with its partners on ways to get the diplomatic efforts back on track.

During an earlier address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz once again reiterated that, “As someone who has experienced conflict, lost brothers in arms, and seen hundreds of bereaved families during my over 40 years of service – I can tell you that in war, even the winner gets to lose. Therefore, I believe that all parties involved must do whatever it takes to prevent bloodshed.”