Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who worked briefly as a mediator at the beginning of Russia’s war with Ukraine, says that President Vladimir Putin assured him he would not have his Ukrainian counterpart assassinated.
Bennett emerged as an unexpected mediator in the early days of the war, becoming one of the few Western officials to visit Putin in a visit to Moscow in March.
Bennett’s mediation efforts may not have had much of an impact but his comments in a late Saturday interview that was broadcasted online provided light on the secret negotiations and hasty efforts that were made to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
“I asked, ‘What’s with this? Are you planning to kill [President Volodymyr] 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 stated that he then called Zelenskyy to inform him of Putin’s promise. “‘Listen, I 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.’”
Also during the interview, Bennett said that during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, the American leader asked him “to promise me that you’ll update me on any action you take in Iran.”
Bennett recalled he had said, “Mr. President, there are going to be times when you’re not going to want to know about things, but generally speaking, I’ll keep you in the picture on the broad strokes of things.”