Israel Orders Evacuation of Embassy in Kyiv

Israel Orders Evacuation of Embassy in Kyiv
Israeli President Isaac Herzog in central London on Nov. 23, 2021. (Justin Tallis/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Israel has ordered the evacuation of its embassy in Kyiv, instructing its staff to relocate to Lviv in Western Ukraine, the Israel Foreign Ministry announced on Monday, amid concerns of further military aggression from Russia.

Lviv is located about 50 miles from Ukraine’s western border with Poland.

Russia has denied it has any plans to invade Ukraine, and has accused western allies of NATO expansion threatening Moscow’s security as Ukraine seeks to be granted membership.

However, just hours after the evacuation order, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was moving to recognize the “independence” of two regions in Eastern Ukraine—the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held by pro-Russia separatist groups. He then signed a decree to authorize that Russian military troops can be ordered into the two areas, located in Ukraine’s Donbas region, for so-called “peacekeeping operations.” According to Ukraine, pro-Russian forces have already been active in the Donbas since the Crimean crisis in 2014.
The White House has since announced sanctions on parties in Ukraine’s Donbas in response to Putin’s decree, with sanctions on Russia to be announced on Tuesday after pleas from Ukraine for action before any Russian “bombardment.”
In an update on Twitter, Israel’s foreign ministry said, “Following a situation assessment at [the ministry], as well as discussions with various international actors, [Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid] has decided to instruct staff at the Israeli Embassy in [Kyiv] to move to consular offices opened in the city of Lviv in western Ukraine.”

“The consular office in Lviv has been working to provide travel documents to Israeli citizens since Thursday (17/02/2022) and will assist citizens interested in leaving the country, primarily through land border crossings to neighbouring countries,” it adds.

“The Foreign Ministry is prepared for any development, including the possibility of a land exit. Within this framework, Israeli diplomats stationed in Lviv as well as those serving in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary have held visits to border crossings with Ukraine, and meetings with the authorities at the crossings, in order to ensure the passage of Israeli citizens who wish to leave Ukraine.”

Israel has about 15,000 citizens in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his address to the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 21, 2022. (Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his address to the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 21, 2022. (Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
The move mirrors what the United States did last week when it too shut down its embassy in Kyiv and moved its operations to Lviv.
Earlier on Monday, the U.S. Department of State told Americans in Ukraine to “leave immediately” via private or commercial air travel because a potential Russian invasion could cause travel disruptions.
“The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to depart Ukraine immediately using commercial or private means due to the increased threat of Russian military action,” the department said in a security alert.

Ukraine and Russia early on Monday argued over the situation in eastern Ukraine, with Russia claiming that Ukrainian soldiers crossed into its territory, after which Russian forces killed five Ukrainian soldiers.

Russian military officials had claimed, via state-run media, that it killed five suspected saboteurs who crossed into Russia’s Rostov region from Ukraine, and also destroyed two armored vehicles.

Hours later, Ukraine denied the allegations.

“No, Ukraine did NOT: Attack Donetsk or Luhansk; send saboteurs or APCs [armoured personnel carriers] over the Russian border; shell Russian territory; shell Russian border crossing; conduct acts of sabotage,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Shelling reportedly spiked in the area starting Feb. 17 along the tense line of contact that separates Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine’s Donbas region, with reports of both sides accusing each other of ceasefire violations. On Feb. 18, separatist leaders in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions mobilized their military forces and announced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of civilians, saying they were being endangered by Ukraine ordering an imminent offensive in the area and could seek safety in Russia.

Ukraine immediately pushed back on the claims, saying there were no orders to use force in these territories. “This is an attempt to provoke our armed forces,” Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s secretary of the National Security and Defense Council said at the time.

In 2014, Russian troops seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Shortly after, Russia began supporting separatist fighters in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine that have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since. The ongoing war has since 2014 killed over 14,000 people.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.
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