Israeli PM meets with Putin on Ukraine
Jerusalem, Mar 5 (EFE).- Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett traveled to Moscow Saturday for talks with Vladimir Putin in pursuit of an agreement that would end Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, officials here confirmed.
Bennett, who spoke at length Wednesday with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was accompanied by Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a Russian-speaking native of Ukraine who acted as translator for the in-person conversation at the Kremlin.
Zelenskyy contacted Bennett after the offensive began on Feb. 24 with a request that Israel mediate between Kyiv and Moscow.
Israel’s population includes some 1.2 million Jews from the former Soviet Union – the vast majority of them born in Russia or Ukraine – and enjoys good relations with both countries.
While the Israeli government has condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine, Bennett has restricted his public comments to expressions of support for the Ukrainian people and advocating negotiations.
After spending nearly three hours with Putin, Bennett telephoned Zelenskyy and then left for Berlin, where he was to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was in Jerusalem earlier this week on a visit scheduled before the crisis erupted in Ukraine.
Bennett, an observant Orthodox Jew, decided to fly on the Sabbath because Judaism allows departures from Sabbath law when the aim is to preserve human life, his office said.
As the Israeli premier pursued his mediation efforts, Ukraine signaled that the third round of direct negotiations with Russia will take place Monday in Belarus.
The announcement came from David Arakhamia, the leader of Zelenskyy’s party in parliament and a member of the Ukrainian delegation at the talks.
The second round, on March 3, produced agreement on arranging humanitarian corridors and temporary cease-fires for the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones.
Evacuation operations were supposed to get under way Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha, but the effort broke down with the sides accusing each other of violating the cease-fire. EFE