Israel Bracing for Influx of Jews Fleeing Russia

Cars queue to enter Finland from Russia at Finland’s most southern crossing point Vaalimaa, around three hour drive from Saint Petersburg, in Vaalimaa, Finland on Thursday. (REUTERS/Essi Lehto)

The government will on Thursday discuss steps that must be taken to prepare for a possible influx of Jews from Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday a draft to bolster troops fighting in Ukraine.

Putin ordered the call up of some 300,000 reserve troops, causing mass protests in major Russian cities and calls to end the war.

Protests against the act across the country by civilians resulted in the arrest of over 1,000 Russians on Wednesday, with the number expected to rise.

Flights out of Russia have soared in cost and are still reportedly sold out as many decided to flee the country and avoid the draft.

Immigration and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata told Yediot that demand to move to Israel from Russia is rising. “We see more requests to immigrate from Russia. I follow the community, and the ministry is doing its best to make sure all those wishing to, can arrive safely, despite challenges,” she said.

“My ministry is preparing for a large-scale immigration wave,” she said and added that the number of flights from Russia is set to increase. “We’ve had talks with El Al and other airlines in order to find solutions to allow the Jewish community in Russia to immigrate.”

Russian Jews arrived in great numbers when the war broke out earlier this year, along with many of Ukraine’s Jewish community who were fleeing the fighting.

The demand for a ticket out of Russia is well demonstrated in sharply rising prices. Prices have passed the $5,000 mark – five time the average monthly salary in Russia – for a one-way ticket to anywhere outside of Russia, and nearly all tickets have been sold out.

Tickets from Moscow to Belgrade were sold out on Wednesday. These flights are operated by Air Serbia, which is the only carrier other than Turkish Airlines that still operates flights to and from Russia, despite the ongoing European sanctions imposed in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine last February.

An official in the tourist industry commented on the increasing demand for flights leaving from Russia. “People buy tickets without caring about the destination.” Ticket prices to Istanbul and Dubai have also risen considerably, with a ticket to Dubai reaching over $5,000.

Tickets from Russia to Istanbul and Armenia, which allow Russian residents to enter without a visa, were sold out on Wednesday. The average price of a ticket to Turkey rose from $360 to $1,150.

Russian citizens are also trying to leave through land. Traffic jams were recorded in the border crossings with Finland and Georgia.

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