Feb 11, 2022 - World

Israel evacuates diplomats' families from Ukraine as Russia tensions escalate

Israeli state flag is seen set in front of the building where Israeli Embassy is located in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 30, 2019.

Israeli flag is seen in front of the building where Israeli Embassy is located in Kyiv, Ukraine, in October 2019. Photo: Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israel on Friday said it has started to evacuate non-essential staff and the families of its diplomats from Kyiv and published a travel warning for Israelis traveling to Ukraine.

Why it matters: Israel has been avoiding this step for weeks due to diplomatic sensitivities with Ukraine and Russia, but it made Friday's evacuation decision because the situation has reached a tipping point, a senior Israeli official told Axios.

  • “The Russians have amassed the number of troops they need on the border with Ukraine to start an invasion on a short order and started a military drill in Belarus and the Black Sea," the official said.

Driving the news: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid ordered the evacuation following a meeting to assess the situation in Ukraine.

  • The travel warning didn’t call on Israeli citizens to leave Ukraine immediately, but to reconsider their stay in the country and avoid getting close to points of tension. It also recommended that Israelis consider avoiding any future travel to Ukraine.
  • Michael Brodsky, the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine, and his team will stay in Kyiv and the embassy will continue to operate as usual. The Israeli Foreign Ministry asked Israelis in Ukraine to register at the embassy. About 4,000 have registered so far.
  • Worth noting: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was expected to arrive in Israel next Monday but postponed his trip earlier this week, Israeli officials say.

The big picture: The U.S., UK, Japan, Australia, Germany and Canada have also evacuated the families of their diplomats or moved some staff out of Ukraine and issued travel warnings to their nationals.

  • President Biden during an NBC interview that aired Thursday said American citizens in Ukraine "should leave now."
  • Echoing Biden's comments, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken urged Americans to leave Ukraine, saying a Russian invasion could take place during the time of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which last until Feb. 20.

Go deeper: Satellite images show increased Russian troop buildup near Ukraine's borders

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