Israel Evacuates Diplomats' Families From Ukraine as Russia Tensions Worsen

The Foreign Ministry also releases a travel warning advising Israelis who are planning to visit Ukraine to refrain from doing so

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Servicemen of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus take part in the Union Courage 2022 joint military exercise on Friday
Servicemen of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus take part in the Union Courage 2022 joint military exercise on Friday Credit: RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/ REUTERS
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid decided Friday to evacuate families of Israeli diplomats from Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion as tensions on the border increase.

In addition, the Foreign Ministry released a travel warning advising Israelis who are planning to visit Ukraine to refrain from doing so.

The ministry also recommended that Israelis who are currently in Ukraine reconsider prolonging their stay in the country and avoid
points of friction.

The decision comes after the ministry held a situation assessment earlier on Friday following a military drill held by Russia near the border with Ukraine. So far, 40 people have been evacuated, all family members of Israeli diplomats.

The Israeli Embassy will continue operating as usual and Israeli diplomats will stay in the country for now, the ministry said in a statement. Once a Russian invasion becomes imminent, a starker warning will be issued and diplomats will likely be evacuated.

Russia has already massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, and this week it launched joint military exercises in neighboring Belarus and naval drills in the Black Sea.

Later on Friday, the British Foreign Ministry said that British nationals in Ukraine should leave now while commercial means are still available. Austria, Australia, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Canada have already issued travel warnings to Ukraine.

Australia, Japan and Canada also began evacuating families of diplomats from the country. France in considering taking similar steps early next week.

Ukrainian soldiers near Kyiv, Ukraine, February 11. Credit: Efrem Lukatsky / AP

In recent weeks Russia has in place about 70 percent of the combat power it believes it would need for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and is sending more battalion tactical groups to the border with its neighbor, according to two U.S. officials.

Washington believes Russia may choose other options than a full-scale invasion, including a limited incursion, and does not believe President Vladimir Putin had made a final decision, the officials said.

In his starkest warning yet to Americans in Ukraine to get out now, President Joe Biden said he would not send troops to rescue U.S. citizens in the event of a Russian assault.

Moscow denies plans to invade Ukraine, but says it could take unspecified "military-technical" action unless a series of demands are met, including promises from NATO never to admit Ukraine and to withdraw forces from Eastern Europe.

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