Israel’s Foreign Ministry alerted Israelis holding Russian citizenship that they could be conscripted into Moscow’s war effort against Ukraine Friday, but stopped short of warning dual passport holders against travel there or telling citizens to leave.
The notice issued by the Foreign Ministry came as Israel has prepared for an influx of Russians fleeing plans by the Kremlin to draft hundreds of thousands of Russian men of fighting age as it struggles to hold off a Ukrainian counter-offensive backed by the West.
“Israeli citizens who also hold Russian citizenship who enter, stay in, or will visit inside the borders of the Russian Federation, will be subject to Russian laws and regulations, including decisions regarding drafting citizens into the Russian military and the possibility of leaving the state’s borders,” the advisory read.
It asked citizens to take the information into account if planning travel to or through Russia.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis hold Russian citizenship, many of whom still maintain links with Russia and travel back and forth.
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An Israeli official told the Walla news site on Friday that the Israel Defense Forces are instructing soldiers with Russian citizenship that they cannot visit Russia, and those currently there are being told they must return to Israel immediately.
The Prime Minister’s Office, which manages travel warnings abroad, left its Russia advisory at the lowest risk level. Despite broadly backing Ukraine, Jerusalem has sought to maintain cordial relations with the Kremlin, both due to Russia’s control of Syrian airspace and its large Jewish community.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled to neighboring Georgia, Kazakhstan and Finland — most often by car, bicycle, or on foot — since Russian President Vladimir Putin last week announced a partial mobilization of reservists. In Russia, the vast majority of men under age 65 are registered as reservists.
Russian authorities have opened enlistment offices near the country’s borders in a bid to intercept some of the Russian men of fighting age who are trying to flee the country by land to avoid getting called up to fight in Ukraine.
People carrying luggage walk past vehicles with Russian license plates on the Russian side of the border toward the Nizhniy Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia near the town of Vladikavkaz, on September 25, 2022. (AFP)
Following the announcement of the draft, government officials held an emergency meeting to prepare for a spike in immigration from Russia. Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata cited an increase in requests to immigrate from Russia and said she was keeping tabs on the Jewish community there.
The Kremlin has said it plans to call up some 300,000 people, but Russian media reported that the number could be as high as 1.2 million, a claim that Russian officials have denied.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has promised to only draft those who have combat or service experience, but according to multiple media reports and human rights advocates, men who don’t fit the criteria are also being rounded up.
The official decree on mobilization, signed by Putin last week, is concise and vague, fueling fears of a broader draft.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.