Israel says it is prepared to host up to 25,000 Ukrainians temporarily

Refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine arrive in Israel from Romania
An Israeli man helps a Ukranian refugee as she arrives from Romania after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at Ben Gurion international airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM, March 8 (Reuters) - Israel said on Tuesday it was ready to take in up to 5,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion and allow 20,000 other Ukrainians who arrived prior to the fighting to remain temporarily.

The policy was outlined by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at a news conference, in which she also said Israel was bracing for the possible influx of tens of thousands of Ukrainians whose Jewish heritage affords them immigrant status under Israeli law.

"Israel will host temporarily about 20,000 Ukrainian citizens who resided, most of them illegally, in Israel before the fighting broke out," Shaked said, in a reference to visitors and workers, such as caregivers for the elderly, who overstayed their visas.

"In addition, if, God forbid, the battles don't end within a reasonable time, we will allow them to work in Israel," she said.

Shaked said the up to 5,000 Ukrainian citizens allowed in to escape the current fighting would receive a three-month visa and be allowed to seek employment if the situation did not change in Ukraine.

The European Union said on Tuesday its member states had so far taken in two million refugees fleeing the Russian invasion and expected millions more to follow. L5N2VB4F9

Israel has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to try to end the war in Ukraine. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Putin and Bennett discussed the conflict in Ukraine again, by telephone, on Tuesday.

In a readout of the call, the Kremlin said Putin had told Bennett about Moscow's assessment of the third round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials that took place on Monday.

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller Editing by Gareth Jones

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