The Israeli embassy to Ukraine officially evacuated to Lviv on Tuesday, moving from the capital in Kyiv after Russia declared separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk to be independent republics, a likely escalation against Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid emphasized that he is prioritizing the safety of Israel’s emissaries and citizens in Ukraine, as well as that of the local Jewish community.
Lapid thanked Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky and his staff for smoothly evacuating the embassy in Kyiv, which is farther east than Lviv and therefore closer to the area of conflict.
Israel has been providing consular services in Lviv for citizens seeking to return since last week.
The Foreign Ministry reiterated its call for all Israeli citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.
Lapid also thanked Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova and Hungary for coordinating with Israel in advance of the possibility that Israelis will need to be evacuated by land. Israeli diplomats in those countries visited border crossings with Ukraine in recent days and held meetings with the border authorities to ensure passage for Israelis.
Despite the efforts and the government’s entreaties over the past week, only about 4,000 out of an estimated 12,000 Israelis had left Ukraine as of Monday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett repeated his request that cabinet ministers do not comment on the situation in Ukraine.
Israel, unlike most Western countries, has yet to condemn Russia’s actions.
Earlier this week Lapid said Israel has “liberal democratic values,” but also needs to weigh other considerations.
Lapid said Israel was “in a bit of a Baltic situation.”
“We have a kind of border with Russia... the important force inside Syria,” he told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ mission to Israel.
In addition, Russia and Ukraine have large Jewish communities, Lapid said, and therefore he has to be “more careful than any other foreign minister in the world.”