Israel Evacuates Diplomatic Staff From Capital Kyiv as Ukraine Crisis Deepens

22 February 2022

The Algemeiner, 22 February 2022

by Sharon Wrobel / Photo credits: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Israel overnight moved forward with the evacuation of its embassy staff in Kiev to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and sent troops there, sparking fears of a wider escalation.

“The staff of the embassy has arrived to the city of Lviv,” stated Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky. “We will continue to provide services to Israeli citizens from here. We are calling on all Israeli citizens to leave the country as fast as possible.”

The embassy team joined the staff of the temporary consular office, which was set up in Lviv last week to issue travel documents and passports to Israeli citizens who want to leave the country.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday spoke with Brodsky to thank the entire embassy team, as well as Foreign Ministry staff, for their “accurate and efficient assessments” and swift evacuation move.

Israel has in recent days been sending diplomats stationed in Lviv and those in neighboring countries like Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary to visit border crossings with Ukraine, in case Israeli citizens need to to leave the country via land exit.

Lapid emphasized that Israel’s top priority was the protection of the lives of Israel’s emissaries, Israeli citizens located in Ukraine, as well as the large Jewish community in the country.

Despite the repeated calls by Israeli senior government officials to immediately leave Ukraine only about 4,000 Israelis have done so, out of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 residing in the country, according to the latest information from the Foreign Ministry.

Western countries on Tuesday imposed new sanctions against Russia following Putin’s latest escalation in Ukraine, with the US announcing measures to target Russian banks and sovereign debt and Germany halting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. Meanwhile, Israel, with ties and vested interests in both Moscow and Kyiv, has so far adopted a quieter, more neutral stance.

“Israel remains in a very difficult position vis-a-vis Russia because of Russia’s control of the Syrian airspace,”  Dr. Anna Borshchevskaya, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told reporters on Tuesday.

“If this crisis escalates — and it probably will — Israel as a free and democratic nation, just as Ukraine is a democratic nation, will need to find ways to help while still walking the fine line with Russia, given Israel’s dependence, specifically on Russia, in Syria,” said Borshchevskaya, who focuses on Russian policy in the Middle East.

Israel has launched numerous air strikes against targets in Syria, particularly those connected to Iran and its proxy, the Hezbollah militant group. It says this is intended to prevent Iranian entrenchment on Israel’s northern border.

Russia, which has backed the Syrian government, has for the most part tolerated these Israeli strikes despite its heavy presence in the war-torn country.

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