The Ukrainian leader sought assurance before posting a video declaring he wasn’t “afraid of anyone,” Naftali Bennett claims FILE PHOTO: Naftali Bennett and Vladimir Putin speak during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, October 22, 2021 © AP / Evgeny Biyatov
Russian President Vladimir Putin told former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he would not have Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky assassinated, Bennett revealed to Israeli media. The former PM flew to Moscow at the request of Zelensky, who declared that he was “not afraid of anyone,” only after Putin assured his safety.
Bennet traveled to Moscow last March, in a failed bid to broker an early ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine. That trip was made at the request of Zelensky, he told Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday.
With Russian forces surrounding Kiev, Zelensky was reportedly hiding in an undisclosed location at the time of the meeting. Bennett told Channel 12 that the Ukrainian leader had tasked him with securing an assurance from Putin that he would not be targeted for assassination.
“Are you going to kill Zelensky?” Bennett asked Putin. The Russian president said that he would not, to which Bennett again asked for his word that he wouldn’t have the Ukrainian president killed. Putin gave his word, Bennett said.
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Bennett said that he called Zelensky immediately after leaving the Kremlin, telling him “he’s not going to kill you.” Zelensky asked for confirmation, and Bennett told him that he was “one hundred percent” sure that Putin would not have him eliminated.
Two hours later, Zelensky posted a video from his office in Kiev, explaining that he was “not hiding,” and “not afraid of anyone.” The video address was described as “defiant” by Western media outlets, but it was unknown until now that Zelensky essentially asked Putin permission – via Bennett – to reveal his location before making his statement.
Bennett described Putin as “smart and sharp,” and a supporter of the Jewish people. However, he said that the Russian leader’s demeanor became cold when Zelensky and his officials were mentioned, with Putin describing them as “Nazis” and “warmongers.”
The former PM – who shared office with Yair Lapid until stalwart conservative Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power in December – said that “everything” he did on his trip to Moscow was “coordinated with the United States, Germany and France.”
Bennett’s interview came a day after French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre confirmed that President Emmanuel Macron “mainly” spoke to Putin by phone at the request of Zelensky. Meanwhile, as the leaders of France and Israel carried his messages to Moscow, Zelensky himself publicly declared that he would never talk to Putin, and forbade his officials from engaging in any negotiations with the Russian leader. (RT)