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Lapid orders relocation of Ukraine embassy amid Russian invasion threat

Israeli mission to move from Kyiv to Lviv, as Foreign Ministry officials prepare for possible land evacuation of the country’s 150,000-200,000 Jews

A Ukrainian serviceman stands in a shelter on a position at the line of separation between Ukraine-held territory and rebel-held territory near Zolote, Ukraine, on February 19, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A Ukrainian serviceman stands in a shelter on a position at the line of separation between Ukraine-held territory and rebel-held territory near Zolote, Ukraine, on February 19, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday directed Israel’s embassy in Kyiv to relocate to Lviv in western Ukraine amid the threat of an imminent Russian invasion.

Lapid and ministry staff in Jerusalem held detailed discussions on the logistics of the move, a ministry spokesman said following a situational assessment.

Embassy staff will work from the temporary consular office opened in Lviv last Thursday, which is located in an office rented by Israel.

Other western nations, including the US and UK, moved their embassy staff to Lviv last week.

Separately, the Jewish Agency for Israel announced Monday that it was also moving its emissaries from Kyiv to Lviv.

The agency said it will continue to operate and provide services to Jews in Kyiv through local workers, and that it will reassess the decision early next week.

Israel’s diplomats in Ukraine have been working to convince the 15,000 Israelis in the country before the tensions to leave, but only around 3,100 have done so.

They are also preparing for the dramatic possibility of a land evacuation of the country’s Jews, estimated to number from 150,000-200,000.

On Sunday, Israeli diplomats serving in countries bordering Ukraine — Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova — visited border crossings and met with the officials in charge of the stations to discuss a potential land evacuation of Israelis and Ukrainian Jews should Russia invade.

Israel is operating on two core assumptions — the Israelis who wanted to fly out on the 40 flights over the past 10 days have already done so, and Ukraine’s skies will be closed in the event of a Russian invasion.

In recent weeks, according to US intelligence, Moscow has massed an invasion force of troops, tanks, missile batteries and warships around Ukraine’s borders in Belarus, Russia, Crimea and the Black Sea.

US President Joe Biden has said that US intelligence believes that Putin has made a decision to invade Ukraine and that commanders are readying units to attack within days.

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