Israel is taking the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine seriously, with a senior government official telling his Russian counterpart during a Wednesday phone call that if it happens, Israel will need Moscow's help getting citizens and diplomats evacuated, Axios reports.
Two senior Israeli officials told Axios the phone call was between Alon Ushpiz, the director general of Israel's foreign ministry, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. Earlier, Israel's ambassador to Moscow had a similar conversation with Bogdanov, the officials said.
Since Sunday, 3,000 Israeli citizens have left Ukraine, and the government estimates that about 10,000 are still in the country, Axios reports. The Israeli officials said the government wants to make sure that if an invasion happens, citizens will be able to safely move to a neighboring country, and there is a draft contingency plan to evacuate them through Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and Romania.
Israel has "close relations" with Russia, Ukraine, and the United States, Axios notes, and has been careful to avoid upsetting those partners and making it look like one was favored over another. On Friday, though, after receiving a new intelligence report from the U.S., the Israeli government decided to tell citizens in Ukraine to leave immediately, five Israeli officials told Axios.