Israel is sending additional staff to Ukraine to weigh the possibility of relocating its embassy in Kyiv to Lviv amid strong concerns of a Russian invasion from the country’s eastern border, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Foreign Ministry officials met Tuesday in Jerusalem to assess the developing situation in Ukraine. Following the meeting, the ministry said its Kyiv embassy staff will continue to provide consular services in the city, joined by additional staff from Jerusalem.
Another team, the ministry said, will be arriving Tuesday in Lviv, in western Ukraine. Located further away from the Russian border, the designated team will “prepare for the possibility” of moving the embassy there if necessary.
US intelligence fears Russian forces could blitz Kyiv within two days of launching an invasion, should Russian President Valdimir Putin order one.
In recent days, several Western countries have moved diplomatic staff from Kyiv to Lviv, in Ukraine’s far west near the border with Poland, a NATO ally as the standoff has deepened.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel would open additional missions in Lviv “if needed.”
Citing the growing threat of escalation, Lapid has reiterated his call for Israelis in Ukraine to leave as soon as possible.
“I call on Israelis who still remain in Ukraine to leave the country,” he said. “The window of opportunity to leave is closing. I am proud of our diplomats in Kyiv and the reinforcements who came from Israel for the assistance they provide to Israelis who need it.”
The ministry said that following the intervention of the Israeli embassy, several major universities in Ukraine have agreed to allow Israeli students to continue their studies online, making it possible for them to return to Israel.
On Monday, visiting Deputy Ukrainian Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova lamented Israel’s urgent calls for its citizens to leave the country, saying they were causing panic and economic damage.
Lapid reportedly told Dzhaparova that Israel is not a player in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and therefore is acting with caution.
There are thought to be 10,000 to 15,000 Israelis in the country.
Israeli airlines said Monday afternoon they were seeing an uptick in the number of Israelis asking to fly out of Ukraine after pleas to leave the country were initially met with a lackluster response. But a Channel 12 report Tuesday said fewer than 2,000 have flown back to Israel this week.
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli has said that eight additional flights to Israel will become available this week.
“There won’t be a single Israeli who wants to return home who is unable to do so,” she said.