Former Israeli PM says the West 'interrupted' Russia-Ukraine peace talks
A file photo of former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Jerusalem, June 20, 2022. /CFP
A file photo of former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Jerusalem, June 20, 2022. /CFP

A file photo of former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Jerusalem, June 20, 2022. /CFP

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett revealed to Israeli media that he traveled to Moscow as Israeli prime minister last March to broker an early ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine and the two sides agreed to make comprises, but the ceasefire talks were "interrupted" by the West.

The West decided "to crush Putin rather than to negotiate"

Speaking on a podcast with Israeli television Channel 12, which lasted for almost five hours and was published on Sunday, Bennett said that after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict last February, he tried to act as a meditator as he believed that there was still chance to end the conflict by diplomatic means.

According to Bennett, he contacted U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan, offering to act as a conduit between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders, and also persuaded German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to join the conversation.

Bennett said that during his mediation, Zelenskyy promised not to join NATO and Putin dropped his main goals of special military operations: seeking "disarmament" and "denazification" of Ukraine, adding in his impression, both Russia and Ukraine want a ceasefire and have drawn about seventeen or eighteen ceasefire drafts, but at some point, the West decided "to crush (Russian President Vladimir) Putin rather than to negotiate."

The former Israeli prime minister also said that all of his actions had been agreed in detail with the U.S., Germany, and France. "They interrupted the talks," he said.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday that Bennett's remark that talks between Russia and Ukraine at the beginning of the special military operation were interrupted by Western countries is "another confession."

In April 2022, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Russian-Ukrainian talks that were proceeding quite successfully in Istanbul were broken down "on the direct order from the U.S. and London," which "totally controlled" Zelenskyy, who had "evidently received an order from the Washington patrons to frustrate the negotiations."

In February 2023, Lavrov said that it was the West who refused the talks and forced Ukraine to withdraw from the negotiating process at the moment when in late March there was a possibility to end it politically.

Putin promised not to kill Zelenskyy

In Bennett's five-hour interview, which touched on numerous subjects, he also said that during his trip to Moscow, the Ukrainian leader had tasked him with securing an assurance from Putin that he would not be targeted for assassination, and he received a promise from Putin that he will not kill Zelenskyy.

Bennett asked Putin whether he would kill Zelenskyy. The Russian president said that he would not, to which Bennett again asked for his word that he would not kill the Ukrainian president. Putin gave his word, Bennett said.

"I asked 'What's with this? Are you planning to kill Zelenskyy?' He said 'I won't kill Zelenskyy.'  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.'”

Bennett said he then called Zelenskyy to inform him of Putin's pledge.

"'Listen, I came out of a meeting, he's not going to kill you.' He asks, 'Are you sure?' I said 'One hundred percent he won't kill you.'"

Two hours after getting the confirmation, Zelenskyy posted a video from his office in Kiev, explaining that he was "not hiding," and "not afraid of anyone." At the time, the video address was viewed as "defiant" by Western media outlets.

Responding to Bennett's claims on Putin's guarantee, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted "Do not be fooled" by Putin. "Every time he has promised not to do something, it has been exactly part of his plan.”

Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak also tweeted that Bennett's claims were "strange," and "claims on 'mediation' that Putin allegedly gave 'guarantees not to kill', 'the West interrupted promising negotiations' are fiction."

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