Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday night that it is shutting down its embassy in Kiev and will move operations to the western city of Levov, closer to the border with Poland and farther from the potential theater of military action.
The move comes as Russian forces inch closer to Ukraine’s borders, increasing the likelihood of an invasion.
“Following a situation assessment held just now at the Foreign Ministry, as well as discussions with various international actors, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has decided to instruct staff at the Israeli Embassy in Kiev to move to consular offices opened in the city of Levov in western Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The consular office in Levov has been working to provide travel documents to Israeli citizens since Thursday (Feb. 17) and will assist citizens interested in leaving the country, primarily through land border crossings to neighboring countries,” the ministry said.
The phone number of the office in Levov is: +380935402099
“The Foreign Ministry is prepared for any development, including the possibility of a land exit,” the ministry said.
Israeli diplomats stationed in Levov as well as those serving in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary have already visited the border crossings with Ukraine and met with the authorities at the crossings “in order to ensure the passage of Israeli citizens who wish to leave Ukraine.”
Russian Forces Just 2.5 Miles from Ukraine’s Borders
Russian military forces are now positioned just two and a half miles from the Ukrainian border, in Russia’s Begorod region, according to a report published Monday by the UK’s Daily Mail.
New satellite images have revealed convoys and troops hidden in civilian areas and among the trees of a forest in Soloti and Valuyki, both located near major military bases in Ukraine’s Kharkov region.
Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine claimed “clashes” have been taking place near the port city of Mariupol, on Ukraine’s southern coast along the Sea of Azov.
Kiev continues to deny its forces are shelling the separatists or their Russian backers.
At least 60,000 women, children and elderly residents have been evacuated from separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine in anticipation of hostilities.
Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky told i24TV on Monday that he and his diplomatic staff are staying in Ukraine, “because our presence here is necessary for Israelis who are staying here in Ukraine.
“At the same time,” he said, “we continue to call on Israeli citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.”
Brodsky said that he and his staff “feel an increase in escalation, and we think we are approaching the decision point, but one does not know what will happen, when it will happen, and whether it will happen.”
The ambassador added that he and his staff “talk all the time with both Russia and Ukraine – and we will continue to talk to everyone – because our top priority is the security of the staff and the security of the citizens.”
Israel’s Immigration Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata is leading preparations being made in the Jewish State in case thousands of Jews and those entitled to immigrate due to the Law of Return decide to flee Ukraine, Israel Hayom reported.
Blinken, Lavrov Set to Meet Thursday
Air France and Lufthansa – national carriers for France and Germany – have both suspended flights to and from Kiev.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet Thursday in Europe with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – if there has not been an invasion of Ukraine.