Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed not to kill Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky during early talks of an invasion, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.
Bennett briefly acted as a mediator between Putin and Zelensky in the early weeks of the invasion of Russia. The former prime minister traveled to Moscow and met Putin in March 2022, and he detailed their conversation during an interview posted online on Saturday.
“I asked ‘What’s in it? Are you planning to kill Zelensky?’ He said ‘I will not kill Zelensky.’ Then I told him ‘I must understand that you are giving me your word that you will not kill Zelensky.’ He said ‘I’m not going to kill Zelensky,'” Bennett said of their conversation.
Bennett said he then called Zelensky to tell him the news.
“‘Listen, I just came out of a meeting, he’s not going to kill you.’ He asks, ‘Are you sure?’ I said ‘100% he won’t kill you,'” Bennett said.
The revelations of Putin’s promise come weeks before the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. However, diplomatic efforts have failed, and Zelensky now says he is unwilling to talk with Putin until he withdraws his forces from Ukraine.
Other Ukrainian officials rejected Bennett’s statement, arguing that Putin was simply lying.
“do not be fooled: [Putin] The expert is a liar. “Every time he has promised to do nothing, it has been part of his plan,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Putin’s forces appear to be preparing for a major ground offensive in the coming months, prompting Ukraine to be desperate for tanks from its Western allies. The US has committed to deliver 31 M1 Abrams tanks in late January, although the vehicles require complex training and maintenance and will not be seen on the battlefield for months.
Germany ‘appreciates the moment now’ as it finally agrees to send tanks to Ukraine, says Graham
Germany, Poland and other European countries are also delivering German-made Leopard 2 tanks, which will see service very soon.
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The US has given Ukraine tens of billions in military aid since the invasion began in February 2022. President Biden’s administration has said that the aid will continue “as long as it is needed”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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