The former Israeli prime minister, who briefly brokered Russia's war with Ukraine, says he received a promise from the Russian president not to kill his Ukrainian counterpart.
Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who acted as an intermediary in the early weeks of the war, was one of the few Western leaders who met with President Vladimir Putin at the time. It happened during Bennett's short trip to Moscow last March.
While Bennett's efforts appear to have done little to stop the bloodshed that continues to this day, his remarks in an interview posted online late Saturday night shed light on the behind-the-scenes diplomacy and strenuous efforts that were made. to end the conflict in its early days.
In a five-hour interview that touched on many other topics, Bennett said he asked Putin if he intended to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I asked: how about this? Are you planning to kill Zelensky?” He said: "I will not kill Zelensky." I then told him: "I must understand that you give me your word that you will not kill Zelensky." He said: "I'm not going to kill Zelensky."
Bennett said he then called Zelensky to inform him of Putin's promise. "Listen, I came from a meeting, he's not going to kill you." Zelensky then asked again: “Are you sure?” I said: "100% that he won't kill you."
Bennett said that through his mediation, Putin reneged on his promise to seek disarmament in Ukraine, and Zelensky promised not to join NATO, but the compromise was later thwarted.
In response to Bennett's comments in his widely publicized interview, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Sunday that Putin cannot be trusted.