Ukraine crisis: Lapid seeks help from Moldova to evacuate Jews, Israelis

"Every effort must be made for Israelis to understand that late rescue can be complicated and dangerous," Lapid tweeted.

 Israeli Foreign Minister and Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on February 14, 2022.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israeli Foreign Minister and Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on February 14, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Israel has asked Moldova to provide an emergency land route out of Ukraine for Jews and Israelis in the case of a possible Russian invasion, urging its citizens to leave the country now before it’s too late.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with his Moldovan counterpart Nicu Popescu about such an escape route on Friday.

He also called on the 10,000 Israelis in Ukraine to leave now, prior to the outbreak of any violence. Some 3,500 have already flown out of Ukraine or driven into neighboring countries.

There are also some 200,000 Jews living in Ukraine.

“Every effort must be made for Israelis to understand that late rescue can be complicated and dangerous,” Lapid tweeted. “There is no need to take unnecessary risks.”

 People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate Ukrainians' patriotic spirit amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 12, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO) People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate Ukrainians' patriotic spirit amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 12, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)

Earlier in the morning he held a meeting in the Foreign Ministry to assess the situation and review intelligence reports.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament on Friday he believed the possibility of a major escalation with Russia was low.

“Our intelligence sees every move that could pose a potential threat to Ukraine. We estimate the probability of a large-scale escalation as low.

He said Russia had amassed some 150,000 troops around Ukraine and that several thousand more were expected to arrive in the near future. Russia’s military build-up has raised Western fears that it will invade Ukraine. Moscow denies any such plans.

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz contacted Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov on Wednesday to express concern for Israeli citizens and diplomats in Ukraine.

Following media reports on the call that said Jerusalem asked Moscow for help evacuating Israelis – which the Foreign Ministry denied – Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry summoned Israeli Ambassador in Kyiv Michael Brodsky for clarification.

Brodsky said in the meeting that the call had two goals: to send a message of de-escalation and to express concern for the security of Israeli diplomats and emissaries.

Reuters and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.