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Ukrainian Embassy seeks to recruit Israelis to fight Russian invasion

In now-deleted post, mission calls for volunteers to ‘participate in combat actions against the Russian aggressor’; Israeli Foreign Ministry says it’s aware of the matter

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel on Saturday began actively recruiting people in Israel to fight against the Russian military as its country is facing a full-scale invasion.

“The Embassy has begun the formation of lists of volunteers who wish to participate in combat actions against the Russian aggressor,” the embassy wrote in a public Facebook post written in Ukrainian.

In the post, the embassy asked those who wish to “participate in the protection of Ukraine from the Russian military aggression” to send an email with their personal information, including any “military specialty” they may have.

On Friday, before the Facebook post was published, the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel told journalists that it was legal for Israelis to volunteer for the Ukrainian military.

However, Israeli law does have a provision forbidding citizens from joining a foreign military — with a potential punishment of up to three years in prison. This is not applicable if the State of Israel has an agreement with the foreign country in question, though it was not immediately clear if this was the case with Ukraine. Curiously, while it may be illegal for Israelis to volunteer for a foreign military, it is not illegal for a foreign country to recruit people in Israel.

The Ukrainian embassy’s post was later deleted from its Facebook page. No explanation was given for the move.

In a since-deleted Facebook post, the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel calls for volunteers to help the country against a Russian invasion, on February 26, 2022. (Screenshot)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it had been aware of the Facebook post before it was deleted, but would not comment further. It did not respond when asked if the post had been taken down due to an Israeli request.

Some 500,000 Israelis are estimated to have Ukrainian roots, most of them having come to Israel in the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But tens of thousands have immigrated in the past few years, following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. Due to Israel’s mandatory conscription, many of these half-million Israelis with Ukrainian heritage have received local military training.

After months of building up forces along the border, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Russia launched a massive military offensive against Ukraine. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been killed in the onslaught so far, and Ukrainian officials have called for anyone in the country who is able to help fight the Russian invasion.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to better reflect the legality of Israeli citizens joining a foreign military.

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