Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he received a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin that he will not kill his Ukrainian counterpart.
Bennett emerged as an unlikely intermediary in the early days of Russia’s 11-month war with Ukraine, becoming one of the few leaders to meet Putin during the war in a trip to Moscow last
While Bennett’s mediation efforts appear to have done little to end the ongoing bloodshed, his remarks, in an interview posted on his YouTube channel late on Saturday, shed light on the backroom diplomacy and urgent efforts that were under way to try to bring the conflict to a speedy conclusion in its early days.
In the five-hour interview, which touched on numerous other subjects, Bennett says he asked Putin about whether he intended to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“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.’”
Bennett said during his mediation, Putin dropped his demand to seek Ukraine’s disarmament and Zelenskyy promised not to join NATO.
There was no immediate response from the Kremlin, which has previously denied Ukrainian claims that Russia intended to assassinate Zelenskyy.
A Ukrainian presidential aide disputed Bennett’s comments.