Putin has promised not to kill Zelensky, claims former Israeli PM
Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett has claimed that Russian president Vladimir Putin promised that he would not kill his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
In an interview with journalist Hanoch Daum and self-published on Bennett’s own YouTube channel, Mr Bennett said: “I knew Zelensky was under threat, in a bunker… I said to him [Putin], ‘Do you intend to kill Zelensky?’ He said, ‘I won’t kill Zelensky’.
“I then said to him ‘I have to understand that you’re giving me your word that you won’t kill Zelenskyy.’ He said ‘I’m not going to kill Zelenskyy.’”
In the early days of the war in Ukraine that started on 24 February, Mr Bennett had emerged as an intermediary.
He was one of the few Western leaders to meet Mr Putin during the war in a snap trip to Moscow in March.
While his mediation efforts failed with the war now close to continuing for a year, his comments shed light on those initial efforts at backroom diplomacy to deescalate tensions.
מאז שסיימתי את תפקידי כראש ממשלה לא התראיינתי.
עכשיו זה קורה.
אבל בתקופה סוערת ובעידן של סרטונים קצרצרים ופאנלים צעקניים, נעניתי לבקשה של חנוך דאום לקיים שיחה קצת אחרת.
שיחה מקיפה וכנה של כמעט חמש שעות, על הכל.
מוזמנים לצפות >> https://t.co/JTkpi3EBjh
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) February 4, 2023
He said that he subsequently came out of the interview and called Mr Zelensky.
“‘I’ve just come out of a meeting, he is not going to kill you,’ [I said]. He asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ I said 100 per cent. He’s not going to kill you,’” he said of the call.
“Two hours later, Zelensky went to his office, and did a selfie in the office, [in which the Ukrainian president said,] ‘I’m not afraid’ and everything,” Mr Bennett was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel.
There has been no response from the Kremlin yet on the former prime minister’s remarks.
It has however previously denied Ukraine’s claims that Russia intended to assassinate Mr Zelensky.
Israel has positioned itself as an ally with Russia in the face of strategic threats from Iran, but it has also maintained good ties with countries in the West including the US, and has supported Ukraine since the invasion.
Mr Bennett’s government, which sent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu into a brief political exile, was short lived as it collapsed last summer after infighting.
Mr Bennett has subsequently moved away from public life.
Additional reporting by agencies