Israeli Ambassador to Kyiv Michael Brodsky said Wednesday that the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would remain on the table until at least the end of February.
“Until at least the end of the month there will be a danger of one military action or another,” Brodsky said in an interview with the Ynet news site. “We’re hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. We have plans for every scenario… and we know what we’ll have to do at each stage.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry opened a consular office in the western Ukraine city of Lviv to serve Israelis in the event of an invasion, which would begin on the eastern side of the country bordering Russia.
The Foreign Ministry has also drafted a contingency plan to evacuate Israelis by land via Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania, according to the Axios news site.
Brodsky lamented what he described as the “complacency” of Israeli citizens in the country where only 3,100 have evacuated while some 10,000 remain.
“There might be a situation where no one will be able to be rescued from here, you might have to go to the west and cross the border to Poland or Romania,” he told The Times of Israel in a separate interview. “In this case, it means it’s already a state of emergency and the whole country will go to the west. It will be a nightmare.”
Separately on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry director Alon Ushpiz held a phone call with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, during which the Israeli diplomat said Jerusalem would need Moscow’s assistance in evacuating its citizens and staff in the event of an invasion, according to the Axios news site.
Israel is one of the few countries that has warm relations with both Russia and Ukraine, and it has been careful not to take steps that demonstrate clear favoritism of either side.
It has reportedly rejected a request from Ukraine to purchase military equipment, such as the Iron Dome missile defense system.
On the other hand, Brodsky joined other ambassadors stationed in Kyiv on a visit to Ukraine’s eastern coastal city of Mariupol with the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday.
Israeli airlines have added flights from Kyiv to Tel Aviv – 32 were scheduled to take off this week – and Brodsky told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that the flights are nearly full.
But things looked quite different on El Al Flight 2652, which took off from Kyiv Wednesday evening with more than half its seats empty, despite El Al canceling a flight scheduled for the next morning and moving those passengers to that one.
Meanwhile, the United States dismissed reports that Russia was withdrawing troops from Ukraine’s border, instead accusing Moscow of sending more soldiers as fears of an invasion remain high.
Russia has increased its presence on the border with Ukraine by “as many as 7,000 troops,” some of whom arrived Wednesday, said a senior White House official, slamming Moscow’s announcement of a withdrawal as “false.”
“We continue to receive indications they could launch a false pretext at any moment to justify an invasion.”
The official, who requested anonymity, added that while Moscow has said it wants to reach a diplomatic solution, its actions “indicate otherwise.”
AFP contributed to this report.