Government officials held an emergency meeting Thursday to gear up for a possible spike in immigration to Israel from Russia, after President Vladimir Putin decided to mobilize another 300,000 troops in a move that sparked protests across the country.
Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata cited an increase in requests to immigrate from Russia and said she was keeping tabs on the Jewish community there.
“We are doing everything in our power to help them reach us here in Israel safely, despite all the challenges that stand in their way at this time,” she told the Ynet news site.
“My ministry is preparing for a massive absorption” of immigrants, she added.
At Thursday’s meeting, senior officials from the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Foreign Ministry and the Treasury discussed budget allocation, flights and housing options.
Tamano-Shata was also in touch with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman about potential sources of funding.
Israel has already seen a significant increase in aliyah — the Hebrew term for Jewish immigration — largely fueled by Ukrainians and Russians seeking to flee the conflict, which began February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Since Putin’s announcement Wednesday of the call-up, the largest in Russia since World War II, many Russians have been seeking to escape the country, with outbound flight prices to nearby destinations spiking dramatically and major lines reported at land border crossings.
The prices of flights from Moscow to Tel Aviv reportedly increased by as much as $5,000.
The Kremlin called accounts of military-aged men fleeing Russia “exaggerated,” according to Reuters.
Other Russians took to the streets in response to the call-up, in the largest public demonstrations since the war’s outbreak in February.
The Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Interior Ministry as saying it had quashed attempts to “organize unauthorized gatherings.”
All the demonstrations were stopped and those who committed “violations” were arrested and led away by police pending an investigation and prosecution, Interfax said.
The OVD-Info monitoring group counted at least 1,332 people detained at rallies in 38 cities across the country after Putin’s Wednesday morning address to the nation.
Putin ordered the risky mobilization after humiliating setbacks for his troops nearly seven months after they invaded Ukraine. The decision has heightened tensions with Ukraine’s Western backers, who derided it as an act of weakness and desperation.