The flow of Israeli nationals out of Ukraine has slowed to less than a trickle, according to data from Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
As of this weekend, 3,800 of the approximately 11,000 Israelis in Ukraine have responded to an urgent warning to leave the country immediately.
But whoever has planned to leave, has apparently done so – and apparently few others intend to follow.
Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky and a skeleton diplomatic staff opened the embassy in Kiev on Sunday to ensure Israeli nationals could obtain travel documents to leave Ukraine – but barely a dozen Israelis showed up to do so, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Havat told JewishPress.com on Sunday night.
A separate consular office that was opened last Thursday in the city of Levov, closer to the border with Poland, “wasn’t active” on Sunday, Havat said. “It was open. No one came.”
Both offices will be open once again on Monday, he said, adding the current assessment is that “we think all the Israelis that wanted to leave have already left.”
The ministry again emphasized in an intensified warning to Israelis in the country on Saturday night that an outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine “may be swift and harsh.”
Both the United States and the United Kingdom already evacuated their embassies in Kiev, relocating their operations to Levov.
If war does indeed break out, will Israel evacuate those who chose to remain against all advice?
“The question is, if we will be able to help them leave,” Havat responded.
Not So Fast: Russian Troops Not Leaving Belarus
Russia and Belarus announced Sunday they have decided to extend the “Alliance Resolve 2022” military drill that was carried out between the two over the past 10 days.
At least 30,000 Russian military forces are remaining in Belarus.
The US government estimates there are now up to 190,000 Russian troops stationed along Ukraine’s borders, both in Russia and in Belarus, including some 40,000 Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
In addition, the aviation tracker Intelsky reported that a notice to airmen (NOTAM) was issued by Russia on Sunday “to block the entire Sea of Azov at midnight.”
— Intelsky (@Intel_sky) February 20, 2022
The Sea of Azov is Ukraine’s only maritime option to access the rest of the planet.
US officials told ABC News on Sunday afternoon that lower-level Russian tactical commanders received directives “consistent with orders to invade Ukraine.”
Diplomatic Efforts Failing
Ambassador Mikko Kinnunen, Special Representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine, and in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), told reporters Saturday that although he tried to convene a meeting of the group — which helps mediate ceasefire violations — and “despite the worsening situation in the conflict related to eastern Ukraine, some participants linked their attendance to certain political preconditions” and therefore, “the meeting did not take place.”
Kinnunen joined OSCE Chairman in Office Zbigniew Rau and OSCE Secretary-General Helga Schmid in “deploring the spreading of disinformation about an imminent military action by the Ukrainian government forces.”
They called on “all participants” to prevent “further deterioration of the humanitarian situation on both sides of the contact line, and to fully respect international humanitarian law.”
Putin Blames Ukraine for Escalation
During his call on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin blamed the escalation in eastern Ukraine on the Ukraine military.
Putin expressed “serious concern” about the “sharp deterioration” on the contact line, the Kremlin said in its readout of the conversation.
Putin also continued to deny any intention of invading his neighbor, despite all appearances to the contrary.
Following up with Macron after his conversation with Putin, Ukraine’s President Zelensky told Macron he supports “the immediate convening” of the TCG and urged the “immediate introduction of a regime of silence” despite Saturday’s failure to convene the group.
UK: ‘Could Be Biggest War in Europe Since 1945’
“The plan that we’re seeing is for something that could be the biggest war in Europe since 1945 just in terms of sheer scale,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC’s Sophie Raworth in an interview this weekend.
Speaking from Germany, where world leaders are meeting for the annual Munich Security Conference, he added, “I think people need to understand that the sheer cost in human life that that could entail, not just for Ukrainians but also for Russians.”
The British leader warned that the UK and the US would ramp up the sanctions against Russia that are already planned in the event that war breaks out. Among the new measures planned would be a block on Russian companies “trading in pounds and dollars” – a move Johnson said would “hit very, very hard.”
He added that an invasion of Ukraine would strengthen, rather than weaken NATO because Western nations could not allow a “false conclusion” by opposition forces that “might is right.”